Social Differences Between Monolingual English and Bilingual English-Spanish Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders

December 18, 2019

Valicenti-McDermott MSeijo RShulman L.

Author information

Children's Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center, R. F. Kennedy Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, and Children's Hospital at Montefiore, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York. Electronic address: [email protected].

Pediatr Neurol. 2019 Nov;100:55-59. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2019.07.001. Epub 2019 Jul 11.




Bilingualism is increasingly prevalent; however, research in bilingual children with autism is sparse. The purpose of this study was to compare social skills and autistic features in monolingual English and bilingual English-Spanish children with autism spectrum disorder.


We conducted a review of the multidisciplinary evaluations done in all children aged one to six years diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in an inner city, university-affiliated clinic from 2003 to 2013. Collected information included demographics, developmental testing, and autistic characteristics.


We identified 462 children; 165 were bilingual English-Spanish and 297 were monolingual English. Parents of bilingual children reported stereotyped or repetitive use of language more often (66% vs 48% P = 0.002) than monolinguals. Significant differences were not found in social interaction, use of nonverbal behaviors, peer relationships, sharing or social or emotional reciprocity, mannerisms, or autism severity.


Bilingualism does not seem to confer an extra vulnerability on children with autism spectrum disorder; however, differences in qualitative use of language were observed.