Archive for April, 2013

Bilingualism and Autism

This is autism awareness month and so I thought it would be a good thing to write a post about autism. I’ve been meaning to do this all month and I’m running out of time! A question that people often ask me is whether bilingualism is an added burden for children with language impairment. We demonstrated through a large study of about 1200 preschool kids that no, bilingualism doesn’t increase risk for language impairment. Okay, but what about more severe impairments? What about children with autism who by definition have particular difficulty with social interaction–wouldn’t bilingualism be a source of additional impairment? Given what I know about language impairment I think the answer is no. And, I wonder too if bilingualism would provide children with these kinds of interaction difficulties additional practice at trying to see other’s perspectives. Because language is learned through social interaction—perhaps bilingualism, by learning TWO sets of social interaction rules would HELP children with autism. Okay, maybe that’s going a little beyond what we currently know, but there are some researchers who are starting to tackle the question of bilingualism and autism and it’s really exciting to see this.

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Punk Syndrome

Another movie I got to see at SXSW was Punk Syndrome. It’s a documentary about a Finnish punk band called, Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät. The film follows the daily lives of the musicians in the band, who are developmentally delayed. Their developmental delays are not specifically the focus of the movie. Rather the focus is on their daily lives, interactions with each other and with family and caregivers. I think a strength of the film is that it allows the audience to see this group of people in their every day lives– disagreements, falling in love, negotiating, planning and so on– activities to which we can all relate. Read the rest of this entry »

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