Language differences between monolingual English and bilingual English-Spanish young children with autism spectrum disorders

Maria Valicenti-McDermott, Nancy Tarshis, Melissa Schouls, Molly Galdston, Kathryn Hottinger, Rosa Seijo, Lisa Shulman, Shlomo Shinnar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

42 Scopus citations


Bilingualism is common worldwide and increasingly prevalent, but there is little information about bilingual children with autism spectrum disorder. The goal of the study was to compare expressive and receptive language skills in monolingual English and bilingual English-Spanish children with autism spectrum disorder. A review of the multidisciplinary evaluations done in toddlers who were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at a university-affiliated center between 2003 and 2010 was performed. Data included demographics, developmental testing, autistic characteristics, and expressive and receptive language skills, obtained from formal speech and language evaluation. A total of 80 toddlers were identified, 40 classified as bilingual English-Spanish. Compared with monolinguals, bilingual children were more likely to vocalize and utilize gestures, with no other differences in language skills. There were no differences in cognitive functioning and autistic features between the groups. In this study, bilingualism did not negatively affect language development in young children with autism spectrum disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)945-948
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Child Neurology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2013



  • English
  • Spanish
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • bilingualism
  • language
  • toddlers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology

Cite this