The other day I received a note from someone who has a child with special needs and was wondering about bilingualism for his family. Because my personal experience in this area is limited, I thought I would search out some expert opinions and bring them together for this post. I hope these resources will be of some support to those raising kids with special needs.
First, a fine video from LinguaHealth with Dr. Brenda Gorman, a speech-language pathologist in the United States.
Ana Paula Mumy, a speech-language pathologist in the United States, has written a masterful guest post for Bilingual Monkeys which offers wise, encouraging guidance.
Speech-Language Pathologist Tells All About Bilingualism, Speech, and Language Delays
Lauren Lowry, a speech-language pathologist in Canada, provides sound, research-based advice at the Hanen Centre website. Her excellent article looks at children with a range of special needs.
Can children with language impairments learn two languages?
One of the studies mentioned in the video above is the work of Professor Elizabeth Kay-Raining Bird at Canada’s Dalhousie University. A short post at the university’s website describes this research.
Children with Down syndrome can become multilingual
“Parents of special needs children including those with Down syndrome are frequently counseled away from bilingualism without the benefit of research to show how capable they actually can be. Ours is the first group study that documented that children with Down syndrome can become bilingual. There is no evidence in our study to suggest input should be restricted to a single language. In fact, these children can do very well in acquiring two languages.” —Elizabeth Kay-Raining Bird
Professor Kay-Raining Bird sums up her findings and recommendations with regard to children with special needs and bilingualism in this excellent interview with Francois Grosjean at his blog Life as a Bilingual.
Supporting Bilingual Children With Special Education Needs
Professor Kay-Raining Bird has written a longer, more scholarly article on this subject at Bilingual Therapies, “a leading provider of bilingual speech-language pathology” based in the United States.
Bilingualism and Children with Language and/or Cognitive Disabilities
Elizabeth D. Pena and colleagues have found, in a study published in The American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, that bilingual children are no more at risk of language impairment than monolingual children.
Bilingualism does NOT increase risk for language impairment (blog post)
Risk for Poor Performance on a Language Screening Measure for Bilingual Preschoolers and Kindergarteners (research article)
Pamela Wilson, the Children with Special Needs Editor at BellaOnline, provides wise advice, and a list of links, in a post at the BellaOnline site.
Bilingual Children with Down Syndrome
Three mothers maintain a terrific site, called Wonder Moms, “to share real talk, helpful information, and practical advice with parents of kids who have intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, autism, language and speech delays, deafness, chronic illness, and traumatic brain injury.”
Wonder Moms website
Eliana Tardio, a mother of two bilingual children with Down syndrome, shares her encouraging story at SpanglishBaby.
How to Raise Bilingual Kids With Special Needs
Eugene Ryan, a university teacher in Japan and the father of a boy with autism, recounts his family’s early struggles and successes in a two-part interview at Bilingual Monkeys.
Interview with a Father Raising a Bilingual Child with Autism, Part 1
Interview with a Father Raising a Bilingual Child with Autism, Part 2
Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, who has a daughter with autism, offers an inspiring account of her experience and research at Growing Up Bilingual.
Autism and Bilingualism: Our Family’s Journey
Sandrine Berges speaks frankly about her family’s multilingual journey, including a son with autism, in an eloquent post at InCultureParent.
Autism and Multilingualism: A Parent’s Perspective
Also at InCulture Parent, Catherine Heemskerk shares her encouraging story of pursuing a bilingual path with her son, despite professional advice to raise him monolingually.
Autism and Bilingualism: Why I Ignored the Professional’s Advice to Drop My Son’s Second Language
Olga Mecking describes the potential impact of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) on a child learning multiple languages in a thoughtful piece at The European Mama.
Raising Multilingual Children with SPD
And finally, to exchange experiences and support with other parents, visit The Bilingual Zoo. This is a warm, lively forum for “keepers” of bilingual kids.
The Bilingual Zoo