Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Abbey Eisenhower

Second Advisor

Alice Carter

Third Advisor

Laurel Wainwright


Parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) express concern about raising their child bilingually, and often hear advice from professionals against the use of bilingualism. Past research has shown no evidence for greater language or communication impairments for bilingual versus monolingual children who are typically developing. However, the associations between bilingualism and different domains of social functioning for children with ASD are not yet well understood. Several studies have examined the language and ASD-related social communication deficits of young children with ASD and have found no differences between monolingual and bilingual children. Limitations in these studies include small sample sizes, the absence of a monolingual non-English-speaking comparison group, and with few exceptions, they have not considered the impact of sociodemographic risk factors on these associations. The current study examined the relation between bilingualism and communication (global parent-reported adaptive communication, receptive language and expressive language, and ASD-related social communication deficits) among children with ASD, taking into account the effects of sociodemographic risk factors (household income, parental education level, and racial minority status) on theses associations. A bilingual Spanish and English-speaking group was compared to 1) a monolingual English-speaking group and 2) a monolingual Spanish-speaking group. Hierarchical linear regressions with sociodemographic risk factors as covariates were used. When comparing the bilingual group with the monolingual English-speaking group, results showed no association between bilingualism and any communication outcomes, including global parent-reported adaptive communication, receptive language, expressive language, and ASD-related social communication deficits. When comparing the bilingual group with the monolingual Spanish-speaking group, results showed no association between bilingualism and receptive and expressive language or ASD-related social communication deficits. Results initially showed higher global parent-reported adaptive communication for the bilingual group, but this became non-significant when sociodemographic risk factors were added to the regression. Thus, findings show no detrimental effect of bilingualism for the language or social communication abilities of young children with ASD. and Parents of children with ASD should be encouraged raise their child in a bilingual environment if it best suits the cultural needs of the family.


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