Profiles of Academic Achievement in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders with Monolingual and Bilingual Language Experience
Although research has shown that children with ASD with can demonstrate comparable academic skills with their typically developing peers (Mayes & Calhoun, 2008), no research to date has assessed the impact of diverse experiences on academic achievement in children with ASD. Research with typically developing bilingual children find that although English-language learners may lag behind their monolingual peers on measures of academic achievement (Han, 2012), these gaps can be minimized with bilingual programs (Rolstad, Mahoney, & Glass, 2005). Despite these studies on academic achievement in children with ASD and bilingual children, it is unclear whether these patterns will hold for bilingual children with ASD.
The present study aims to clarify the impact of diverse language experiences on academic achievement in diverse children with ASD.
The current study is part of a larger study evaluating developmental profiles of diverse children with ASD who visited a developmental disabilities clinic located in an urban city in the United States. Clinic records of children between 3 and 12 years of age with clinical diagnoses or educational classifications of an Autism Spectrum Disorder were reviewed. Information about demographics, language experiences, nonverbal IQ, and subtest scores for Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT; Wechsler, 2001) were extracted from the clinic records. Children were grouped by their language use as monolingual or bilingual based on clinician observations, parent-report of language use in the home and school and language use reported in children’s IEP reports.
Cases were included in the current analyses if children with ASD had data available for at least three WIAT subtests: Word Reading, Numerical Operations, and Spelling. Preliminary analyses included 17 monolingual children and 11 bilingual children. No differences were found in age, age of first diagnosis, and nonverbal IQ (all p’s > .05) between groups. Additionally, the two language groups were comparable in the proportion of males and percentage receiving public aid, see Table 1. To examine academic achievement profiles of monolingual and bilingual children with ASD, a repeated measures ANOVA was conducted with WIAT subtests (Word Reading, Numerical Operations, Spelling) as a within subjects variable, and Language Group as a between subjects variable. These analyses found a significant WIAT subtest X Language Group interaction, F(2, 52) = 3.62, p = .034, partial η2 = 0.12. The results of the significant interaction are displayed in Figure 1. Follow-up t-tests found no significant differences between monolingual and bilingual children with ASD on individual WIAT subtests (all p’s > .05).
Although the preliminary results found a significant interaction between language group and WIAT subtests, follow-up tests revealed no differences between groups. However, the results also indicate that monolingual and bilingual children perform similarly on standardized measures of academic achievement, indicating that learning two languages may not have a detrimental effect on the cognitive development of children with ASD. These results provide initial evidence on the impact of language experience on academic achievement, adding to the limited literature on bilingual language development in ASD.