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The impact of bilingualism on the narrative ability and the executive functions of children with autism spectrum disorders.

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Peristeri, Eleni 
Baldimtsi, Eleni 
Andreou, Maria 
Tsimpli, Ianthi Maria 


While there is ample evidence that monolingual children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) face difficulties with narrative story-telling and executive functions (EF), there is considerable uncertainty about how bilingualism impacts these skills in autism. The current study explores the effect of bilingualism on the narrative and EF skills of forty 7-to-12-year-old bilingual and monolingual children with ASD, as well as forty age-matched bilingual and monolingual children of typical development (TD). Narrative production data were elicited using the Edmonton Narrative Norms Instrument (ENNI; Schneider et al., 2005), which was developed to measure narrative production at a microstructural and macrostructural level. The same children were administered two EF tasks, namely, a global-local visual attention task and a 2-back working memory task. In story-telling, bilingual children with ASD achieved higher scores than monolingual children with ASD on story structure complexity and use of adverbial clauses, and they tended to use significantly fewer ambiguous referential forms than their monolingual peers with ASD. In the global-local task, bilingual children with ASD were faster and more accurate in global trials than monolingual children with ASD, who tended to be more susceptible to interference from locally presented information than the other experimental groups. Higher accuracy and faster response times were also observed for bilingual children with ASD in the 2-back task. Further correlation analyses between the story-telling and EF tasks revealed that bilingual children with ASD drew on a broader range of EF in narrative production than their monolingual peers. The overall findings reveal that bilingual children with ASD outperformed their monolingual peers with ASD in both the microstructure and macrostructure of their narrative production, as well as in their visual attention and working memory skills.



Autism, Bilingualism, Executive functions, Narratives, Attention, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Child, Executive Function, Humans, Memory, Short-Term, Multilingualism, Narration

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J Commun Disord

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Elsevier BV