top of page

Autism and Bilingualism



  • Expecting parents of autistic children from bilingual backgrounds to speak in the dominant language i.e., English, amounts to denying their basic human rights to communicate in their heritage languages. The risk of having their communication rights violated is unacceptably high for autistic children from minority groups (Greaux et al., 2020)


  • Bilingual autistic children should have access to rich experiences in their heritage language which play a significant role in developing their identity and social connectedness. There is no evidence of any negative impact of bilingualism on autistic people. Evidence suggests that bilingualism can influence cognitive and social-emotional development (Digard et al, 2021)


  • There is no basis to discourage home language use with autistic children from bilingual backgrounds (Siyambalapitiya et al., 2021)


  • Evidence suggests that proficiency in two or more languages is associated with improved self-rated social quality of life for autistic people (Digard et al., 2020)

Useful Links and resources:


Davis et al. (2021). Autistic people's access to bilingualism and additional language learning: Identifying the barriers and facilitators for equal opportunities. Frontiers in Psychology,

12(741182), 1-6.


Digard, B.G., Sorace, A., Stanfield, A. and Fletcher-Watson, S., (2020). Bilingualism in autism: Language learning profiles and social experiences. Autism, 24(8), pp.2166-2177.

Digard, B. G., & Davis, R. (2021, June). Bilingualism in autism: Evidence and recommendations for clinical practice.


Digard, B. G., Johnson, E., Kašćelan, D., & Davis, R. (2023). Raising bilingual autistic children in the UK: at the intersection between neurological and language diversity. Frontiers in psychiatry, 14.


Gréaux, M., Katsos, N., & Gibson, J. (2020). Recognising and protecting the communication rights of autistic children.


Siyambalapitiya, S., Paynter, J., Nair, V.K., Reuterskiöld, C., Tucker, M. and Trembath, D. (2021). Longitudinal Social and Communication Outcomes in Children with Autism Raised in Bi/Multilingual Environments. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, pp.1-10.


‘Overcoming Barriers: Autism in the Somali community’

Research project on bilingualism -

bottom of page