Multilingual Environment and Social Communication in Autism

Project Overview 

This study is exploring the impact of multilingual environments on the social communication skills of minimally speaking autistic children. Linguistic diversity, which is closely tied to cultural diversity, can expose individuals to a variety of social contexts, potentially enhancing children’s social communication abilities. However, most of the existing research is based on monolingual contexts, which may lead to misunderstandings about the effects of multilingual exposure on the social communication development of autistic children. The study aims to shed light on the factors that influence the social communication development of minimally verbal autistic children in multilingual environments. It specifically looks at how the linguistic backgrounds of parents from India and the United States affect their children’s social communication skills. Based on the socio-cultural theory of learning, we hypothesize that children from multilingual households may have better social communication skills than those from monolingual households. The study analyzed data from 70 minimally verbal autistic children from India and the U.S. The results showed significant relationships between all social communication skills and the parents’ linguistic background. The more languages the parents knew, the fewer concerns there were about the children’s social communication skills. This supports our hypothesis that multilingual parents may provide their children with a wider range of social experiences, thereby enhancing their social communication skills. The study highlights the potential benefits of parents’ multilingual abilities and the importance of a linguistically diverse environment for children’s social communication development. The researchers recommend further research to confirm these findings and to better understand the nature of multilingual environments.

Roles and Responsibilities 

As the First Author, I am leading all aspects of data dissemination, including developing research questions, identifying an appropriate data analysis plan, conceptualizing the publication, and assembling and working with a team of early-career and student researchers

Publications (in preparation)

Suswaram, S., Gross, M., Jenkins, K., & Jimenez., A. (in-preparation). Linguistic Environment and Social Communication in Minimally Speaking Autistic Children. Journal of Child Development.

Presentations (under review)

Suswaram, S., Gross, M., Jenkins, K., & Jimenez., A. (Under Review). Multilingual Environments and Social Communication Development in Minimally Verbal Autistic Children. Meeting on Language in Autism (MoLA)