Bilingualism and autism project


“Is bilingualism the right choice for my child with autism?”
Over recent years, we’ve received more and more requests from parents of children with autism who want to know whether bringing up their child with more than one language is the right option for them.

Unfortunately, as things stand there simply isn’t enough evidence about the relationship between autism and bilingualism for us to offer meaningful advice to parents of children with autism. The situation is further complicated by the fact that children with autism display a wide range of different behaviours.

The Bilingualism and Autism project is designed to acquire as much data as we can about the experiences of multilingual households with a child with autism. This data will greatly increase our understanding of the choices, support, successes and challenges encountered by multilingual families with a child with autism.


“This study aims to gain a better idea of the relationship between autism and growing up in a multilingual environment. Ultimately, we hope the study will be able to provide evidence that can help multilingual families with a child with autism decide whether or not bringing up their child to speak more than one language is the right fit for their particular family.”

Project outputs

A poster about the project results was presented at the 2016 Budapest Central European University Conference on Cognitive Development. View the poster here

Researchers also developed a factsheet for parents and teachers about whether multilingualism is harmful to children with autism. View the factsheet here


University of Edinburgh logo
The project is funded through a Challenge Investment Grant awarded by the University of Edinburgh to Dr Hugh Rabagliati, Dr Sue Fletcher-Watson, and Professor Antonella Sorace.

Project partners

This is a cross-disciplinary project by three teams at the University of Edinburgh
Development Autism Research Technology
Developmental Psychology Lab
Bilingualism Matters