Learning a second language could be beneficial for kids with autism
The benefits of bilingualism for children are fairly well-established.
Various studies have shown that kids who learn a second language at an early age are able to better process voice information, are more mentally agile at school and develop core cognitive skills like decision-making and problem-solving earlier.
Now, parents of children with autism also have reason to consider exposing their child to a second language or even actively teaching them one.
New research has found that autistic children who are bilingual might find it easier to switch between tasks than others.
Forty children aged between six and nine with and without Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) were given a computer-generated test with different tasks in a study at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
They were asked to sort items on a screen by colour and then asked to sort the same items by shape instead.
The kids with ASD who were bilingual were "significantly better" at switching between the tasks in the test than those who only spoke one language.
This is the first time bilingualism in children with ASD has been linked with cognitive flexibility, according to the paper's senior author
"This is a novel and surprising finding," said Professor Aparna Nadig from McGill's School of Communication Sciences and Disorders.
"No one has yet published research that clearly demonstrates that [the bilingual] advantage may also extend to children on the autism spectrum. And so it's very exciting to find that it does."