Bilingualism may increase cognitive flexibility in autistic kids

Washington: A study has recently found that bilingualism may increase cognitive flexibility in kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

The findings indicated that bilingual children with ASD performed significantly better when it came to the more complex part of the task-shifting test relative to children with ASD who were unilingual.

“This is a novel and surprising finding,” said senior author Aparna Nadig from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.

“Some researchers have argued convincingly that living as a bilingual person and having to switch languages unconsciously to respond to the linguistic context in which the communication is taking place increases cognitive flexibility,” Nadig added.

The researchers arrived at this conclusion after comparing how easily 40 children between the ages of six and nine, with or without ASD, who were either monolingual or bilingual, were able to shift tasks in a computer-generated test.

There were ten children in each category.

The children were initially asked to sort a single object appearing on a computer screen by colour (i.e. sort blue rabbits and red boats as being either red or blue) and were then asked to switch and sort the same objects instead by their shape (i.e. sort blue rabbits and red boats by shape regardless of their colour).

“It is critical to have more sound evidence for families to use when making important educational and child-rearing decisions, since they are often advised that exposing a child with ASD to more than one language will just worsen their language difficulties,” said first author Ana Maria Gonzalez-Barrero.

The research appears in Child Development journal.