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Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Monolingual vs Bilingual Homes

A Scoping Review

Wang, Michelle MSc, MD*; Jegathesan, Thivia MPH, MSc (candidate); Young, Elizabeth MD, FRCPC; Huber, Joelene MSc, PhD, MD, FRCPC‡,§; Minhas, Ripudaman MD, MPH, FRCPC, FAAP

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: June 2018 - Volume 39 - Issue 5 - p 434–446
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000574
Review Article
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Background: Approximately 20% of children in Canada and the United States are raised in bilingual family homes. Current recommendations for typically developing children are to encourage and support bilingual exposure in the home; however, there are no specific guidelines for families of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), a disorder in which communication deficits are considered a hallmark feature.

Objective: The aim of this study is to present a scoping review of studies that compare cognitive, linguistic, and behavioral outcomes for children with ASDs raised in monolingual vs bilingual homes.

Methods: A systematic search of 6 databases for peer-reviewed literature and gray literature search through dissertation databases, conference archives, and reference lists of pertinent studies was conducted.

Results: Nine studies were included. No consistent differences were observed in the categories of core ASDs behaviors, cognitive function, or language. The studies suggest a potential bilingual advantage on nonverbal intelligence quotient scores, adaptive functioning, and expressive vocabulary.

Conclusion: There is no evidence of a detrimental effect of raising children with ASDs in a bilingual home.

*Department of Paediatrics, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, ON, Canada;

Department of Pediatrics, St. Michael's Hospital, Institute of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada;

Division of Developmental Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute and Keenan Research Centre, St. Michael's Hospital, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada;

§Division of Neurology, Hospital for Sick Children, School of Graduate Studies, Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada;

Division of Developmental Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, St. Michael's Hospital, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.

Address for reprints: Michelle Wang, MSc, MD, Department of Paediatrics, Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, ON M5G1X8, Canada; e-mail: mj.wang@mail.utoronto.ca.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Received September 13, 2017

Accepted March 07, 2018

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