Nowadays, more individuals are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental conditions. While many people might consider this a significant impediment due to the slower development of specific abilities, patients with ASD can not only develop their skills while remaining multilingual but also learn other languages as well. While some studies claim that intervention in ASD patients must exclude other languages and rather focus on one for better speech development, there is data that individuals diagnosed with autism can benefit them.
Speech and Language Characteristics of the Disorder/Population
Individuals who were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder display a set of speech and language characteristics. Usually, speech and language characteristics of the population include decreased vocabulary size, poor understanding of the spoken language, and desire to communicate via gestures (Hsieh et al., 2018). A neurodevelopmental condition known as autism spectrum disorder is characterized by a lack of motivation, repetitive behavior, and insufficient social cooperation and communication (Hsieh et al., 2018). Typically beginning before the age of three and lasting throughout life, this condition encompasses the challenges in interpersonal contact, bilateral socialization, non-verbal conduct, and formation of social connections (Özyurt & Eliküçük, 2018). Among the most common application factors and distinctive characteristics of people identified with autism is a delay in language development (Özyurt & Eliküçük, 2018). There is still relatively little known about the linguistic characteristics of cases who were identified with ASD at an early stage, even though early language development processes have been explored by multiple researchers in individuals with autism.
Furthermore, it is noteworthy that individuals with autism spectrum disorder tend to have a limited vocabulary, with development relying on IQ, understanding, and concentration abilities. Although their speaking skills can be highly perseverative and have a distinctive vocal character, communicative individuals on the spectrum generally do not have issues with sound pronunciation, which usually involves nasal, monotonic, and atypical stress (Mody & Belliveau, 2013). The main issue is social communication and interaction since individuals with ASD seldom utilize languages in social situations, such as expressing their reaction or asking for something, further demonstrating the close relationship between language and social abilities in autism (Mody & Belliveau, 2013). Considering that the most obvious distinctions between people on the autism spectrum are connected to intellectual ability and language development, there has recently been an increasing interest in looking into prospective connections between biological and genetic observations and endophenotypes.
Assessment in Bilingual Individuals
Nowadays, there are more individuals diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders than they were twenty years ago, and their rates of diagnosis have significantly increased (Towson et al., 2021). More specifically, there are now 1 in 54 children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (Stoll et al., 2021). Although recent research indicates that ASD affects people of all racial, national, and socioeconomic backgrounds, there is a difference in the proportion of white children and those from a minority background who receive a diagnosis (Stoll et al., 2021). To improve the quality of diagnosis for people with autism, evaluation methods used for autism spectrum disorder assessments have undergone recurrent modifications due to the rising diagnosis rate.
Usually, individuals with histories that are culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) go through the same speech and language evaluation procedure as any other client. The standard diagnostic procedure is connected with four components, including investigative, analytic, utilization, and accountability, which is considered a model of therapeutic patient care (Battle, 2012). Using case history interviews, recommendation documents, and evaluation, the investigation role includes the gathering of statistical data about a patient and their language condition (Battle, 2012). The case history is essential for CLD patients since it frequently acts as a key source of information for individuals who speak languages with no evaluation tools available. The case history examination is a valuable source of information for discovering how the patient’s household and other people with comparable cultures and nationalities rate their ability to communicate in terms of community norms.
Moreover, it is crucial to utilize case history questions in an interview that shows a definitive summary when evaluating bilingual or multilingual patients. First, these questions allow us to grasp the accurate language system and patterns the patient uses in different languages (Battle, 2012). Additionally, it is possible to see comparative interaction strengths and weaknesses within each patient’s language (Battle, 2012). Lastly, during the assessment, the professional can evaluate the influence of any apparent communication issues on the patient’s capacity to interact clearly.
Intervention in Bilingual Individuals
When it comes to intervention in bilingual individuals diagnosed with ASD, there are different perspectives. Families with multiple language speakers frequently seek early treatment for autism spectrum disorder. Yet little is known about how early therapy affects children raised in multilingual households (Zhou et al., 2019). Professionals continue to be concerned that bilingually-raised individuals with autism spectrum disorder may experience slower overall language development than their monolingually-raised counterparts (Zhou et al., 2019). Yet, this could be the result of the dearth of documented studies in this field up until relatively recently. Other data support the claim that monolingual and multilingual linguistic environments may have many benefits for ASD individuals (Summers et al., 2017). Still, when interacting with bilingual children with autism spectrum disorder, clinicians should take into account adopting bilingual treatment options.
The importance of preserving and advancing the legacy languages of people with disabilities has been acknowledged by several nations. For example, multilingual individuals with disabilities should be given the same chances to learn their native languages as their counterparts, according to special education laws in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and the Netherlands (Lim et al., 2019). As a result, numerous intervention in bilingual ASD individuals does not view bilingualism as a harmful factor.
Drysdale et al., in their article, review a study that involved teaching a child with autism another language. A professional provided a multilingual Korean-English speech-language intervention since they are multilingual. The patient improved in both speech production and expression over the intervention phase and was able to finish the full evaluation in English (Drysdale et al., 2015). The child enhanced his use of nonverbal communication, accepted basic verbal directions, used two- to three-word requests for activities, welcomed facility personnel, and regularly asked the therapist questions. Additionally, there was a decrease in damaging conduct as well as an improvement in social expression and eye contact. The research illustrates how a bilingual language intervention can help a patient with autism spectrum disorder acquire multilingual language abilities (Drysdale et al., 2015). Thus, multilingual language formation is normal for children with autism, and clinicians should communicate with bilingual patients in manners that are respectful to their cultures.
The implication of the study can be pointed out through restriction to journal papers primarily written in English. This could have prevented a genuinely global picture of bilingualism in individuals with ASD. As for further studies, longitudinal research with higher sample numbers is required to ascertain the effect of multilingual exposure on speech development over time (Lim et al., 2019). More study is also required to determine how speech and other interventions affect the development of bilingualism. Lastly, research is required to pinpoint traits unique to autism spectrum disorder that could affect results. For instance, the rigidity and desire for regularity that are traits of individuals with high functioning autism may actually make it possible for thorough second-language education, enhancing bilingualism.
Further research is required to determine whether and how individuals with autism spectrum disorder learn additional languages. Since individuals with autism typically learn a language later, but some might stay barely verbal, this may necessitate extended longitudinal research strategies. In this demographic, it is necessary to investigate several objective criteria and measurements of bilingualism (including dual or multiple languages, explicit or implicit experience) (Zhou et al., 2019). The future study must also examine comparing groups on the language of engagement, gender, nationality, and autism symptoms to compensate for any influencing factors. The growth of speech in individuals with autism may be better understood through qualitative research techniques like family surveys and observations.
Hence, lack of initiative, repetitive actions, and a lack of social collaboration and communication are traits of the neurodevelopmental disorder known as an autism spectrum disorder. Speech characteristics of ASD people are limited vocabulary and slow language development. In bilingual individuals, the standard diagnostic approach is tied to four elements such as investigative, analytic, utilization, and accountability. Regardless of the perspective that intervention that focuses on a multilingual environment might be harmful, individuals with ASD may benefit significantly from both monolingual and multilingual language contexts.
Battle, D. E. (2012). Communication disorders in multicultural populations. Elsevier Health Sciences.
Drysdale, H., van der Meer, L., & Kagohara, D. (2015). Children with autism spectrum disorder from bilingual families: A systematic review. Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2(1), 26-38. Web.
Hsieh, M. Y., Lynch, G., & Madison, C. (2018). Intervention techniques used with autism spectrum disorder by speech-language pathologists in the United States and Taiwan: a descriptive analysis of practice in clinical settings. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 27(3), 1091-1104. Web.
Lim, N., O’Reilly, M. F., Sigafoos, J., Ledbetter-Cho, K., & Lancioni, G. E. (2019). Should heritage languages be incorporated into interventions for bilingual individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders? A systematic review. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 49(3), 887-912. Web.
Mody, M., & Belliveau, J. W. (2013). Speech and language impairments in autism: Insights from behavior and neuroimaging. North American Journal of Medicine & Science, 5(3), 157. Web.
Özyurt, G., & Eliküçük, Ç. D. (2018). Comparison of language features, autism spectrum symptoms in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, developmental language delay, and healthy controls. Archives of Neuropsychiatry, 55(3), 205. Web.
Stoll, M. M., Bergamo, N., & Rossetti, K. G. (2021). Analyzing Modes of Assessment for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Using a Culturally Sensitive Lens. Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 5(3), 233-244. Web.
Summers, C., Smith, V., Mueller, V., Alexander, V., & Muzza, A. (2017). Language of intervention in bilingual children with autism spectrum disorders. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups, 2(1), 203-211. Web.
Towson, J. A., Akemoglu, Y., Watkins, L., & Zeng, S. (2021). Shared interactive book reading interventions for young children with disabilities: A systematic review. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 30(6), 2700-2715. Web.
Zhou, V., Munson, J. A., Greenson, J., Hou, Y., Rogers, S., & Estes, A. M. (2019). An exploratory longitudinal study of social and language outcomes in children with autism in bilingual home environments. Autism, 23(2), 394-404. Web.