Bilingualism research group
Speaker: Dr Rachael Davis (Queen Margaret University (QMU)/University of Edinburgh)
Title: Understanding the impact of bilingualism for autistic children
Abstract: Studies have shown that children living in a dual-language environment benefit from the close family and cultural connections that their shared language affords. Yet, despite the opportunities that can arise from bilingual environments, professionals and parents remain concerned about the potentially harmful effects for autistic children. While these recommendations are not built on evidence, language access for some autistic children is being prevented. Our current understanding of how bilingualism impacts autistic children is limited. While to date, there is no evidence of adverse effects of bilingual exposure, a stronger evidence base is needed for stakeholders. Therefore, the aim of this research is to understand how bilingualism impacts cognitive development and shapes the identity of autistic children.
In this talk I will present data that looks to understand the relationship between bilingual language exposure and facets of social cognition and executive functions, analysing data from novel eye-tracking paradigms and computerised tasks. I will also introduce a qualitative research project that aims to capture the perspectives of autistic children regarding their bilingual experience, and the intersection of their identities. This research takes a step towards understanding whether bilingualism can provide a naturalistic opportunity to further develop cognitive skills and has contributed to an evidence base for parents to make an informed choice about bilingualism with their child.
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