My child is autistic, should they learn more than one language?


It is natural to prefer to speak your own language with your children. If you worry that speaking your own language with your autistic child will be a problem, this leaflet is for you.

What is autism?

What is autism?

Autism is a lifelong condition that changes the way the brain develops and works.

What causes autism?

Most experts think that there isn’t one cause of autism, and sometimes it can be due to genetics. It starts before a child is born, even if it takes a few years to be visible. Autism is NOT caused by bad parenting, vaccines, infections, diet or trauma.

Is there a cure?

No, there is no cure, and there is no need for a cure. Any treatment that pretends to be a cure is not honest.

Who can be autistic?

People on any gender, any skin colour, any culture, any origin, any religion can be autistic.

Is it possible to “grow out” of autism?

No, autistic people’s experiences and abilities change during their life, like everybody, but they will always be autistic. Autism is an important part of peoples’ identity.

What can autistic people do?

Autistic people can do great things, just like non-autistic people. They might just do some things differently.

Is it good or bad for autistic children to hear or speak more than one language?

Does growing up with several languages confuse autistic children?

No, it does not confuse them.

Does bilingualism make learning each language harder?

No, it does not. Autistic children can have difficulties with language, but they can still learn several languages. It might take them a bit longer, but this is common for all bilingual children.

What if my child does not speak?

Even if your child does not speak, they can still understand several languages. It is possible that your child finds understanding language difficult too, but speaking to your child in more than one language will not change how much they are able to speak or understand. Speaking several languages to your child will not harm them.

Should I stop speaking my language and use English instead?

No, speak the language you are most comfortable with. Research shows that this is best for parents and children.

Does growing up with two languages make it harder for my child to learn and understand things?

No, growing up with several languages is not bad for your child’s thinking and learning skills.

Are there good things about growing up with several languages for my autistic child?

Yes, many good things! Your language will help your child connect with their family and community. It can also be very good for their future life. Knowing several languages helps understand people, access new hobbies and interests, and get jobs.

Growing up with several languages is not bad for autistic children.

It can even be good for many things in life: being part of a community, learning new things and accessing more opportunities.

Growing up with several languages is as good for autistic people as it is for everybody else.

If you choose to speak your own language with your autistic child, you are not doing anything wrong.

One language or two, choose the best option for your family.