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Here’s How Learning A Second Language Can Benefit Children With Autism

By Kari Jenkins

The prevalence of autism in the United States has grown over the past years, with a recent estimate by the CDC indicating that one out of every 59 children in the country have been diagnosed with some form of autism spectrum disorder. Moreover, apart from associated challenges such as physical and mental health conditions, most kids with ASD also have a difficult time learning, as 31 percent of kids with ASD have an intellectual disability. One of the best ways to help kids cope is through early intervention to improve learning and communication skills. Apart from occupational and speech therapy, learning a second language can also benefit kids with ASD in more ways than one. Here’s how learning another language can help children with autism.

It makes them feel more connected to family members

Growing up in a bilingual household is not only a big advantage when it comes to mastering a language, but it also allows kids to form strong bonds with their parents or grandparents as they learn to converse in their family’s mother tongue. However, parents of kids with ASD often think that their child may be better off just learning one language because their child’s autism or developmental delays may make it difficult for them to learn another one. The good news is that there is no study that supports this reasoning, which is why parents should take active steps to ensure that their child embraces multilingualism. This way, the child won’t feel alienated when everyone in the family exchanges stories in their mother tongue, and they will feel a stronger connection to their elders and siblings.
Experts recommend that parents should educate themselves on autism and how to go about teaching their child a second language. Adults should create an action plan on how to teach and raise their child to empower them for the future, and to help them communicate well with the ones they love. Moreover, if they’re living in a bilingual household, parents, siblings and other relatives are encouraged to speak to the child in their mother tongue and let them learn English from the outside world. This practice can help maintain strong cultural and family ties, and it allows for better communication with the child as he or she grows.

It may help them to be more comfortable with change

Most kids who are on the spectrum like routines and are uncomfortable with change. Maintaining predictability and sameness is relatively easy while a child is young, but parents may find that doing this becomes a lot more challenging once their little one starts attending school. To help a child with autism cope with change, parents should look into letting them learn a second language as research indicates that being bilingual may improve the brain’s ability to switch between tasks. This function is called cognitive flexibility, and children with ASD often struggle to switch tasks because their cognitive flexibility is impaired. Learning a new language may help them to be more comfortable with new tasks and challenges, and over time, being comfortable with these things may make them become more receptive to change.

To help your child learn a second language, start by teaching through repetition, and don't forget to use gestures or big actions to help your child understand what you're trying to say. You should also start with the basics such as greetings, colors and the like, and encourage everyone in the family to have a conversation with him or her in your mother tongue. Learning a second language can help a child with autism to have stronger bonds with loved ones. It can also help them thrive in a world that brings about constant change. Consider teaching your little one to speak in another language to help them achieve their full potential.

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