There are many studies that show how beneficial learning a foreign language can be to children. It is often said that a bilingual child has improved skills in problem-solving and critical thinking. They are also deemed to have more mental flexibility. However, have you ever taken the time to consider in what ways learning a foreign language could have an effect on a child who has autism? Have you ever even considered the possibility?
Well, a trait that many children with autism tend to have in common is their acute attention to detail. And perhaps this is the very characteristic that makes them excellent candidates for learning a foreign language--specifically when taught on an elementary level. You see, the study of foreign languages is a process that is very detail-oriented. From the individual vocabulary words to the spelling and accents, it all takes acute attention.
In fact, recent research suggests that learning a foreign language can be beneficial for autistic children. These benefits can impact them socially, academically, personally, and psychologically. Let's take a moment to discuss a few of the biggest benefits.
Foreign languages, at the most basic levels, are black-and-white processes, which is something that many autistic children will find comforting. Instead of having to judge or interpret, they can enjoy the satisfaction of right or wrong. Conjugating verbs and grammar rules are a welcomed change of pace.
It Improves Their Ability to Concentrate
In most instances, these children often find it difficult to concentrate when overloaded by sensory perception. However, an education in a foreign language will train the brain to focus and give more attention to stimuli that are auditory stimuli. And this is because a significant part of learning a foreign language is listening to how the sounds are being put together as well as analyzing how those sounds differ from each other. In fact, a study conducted in 2013 shows that those who have studied a foreign language are better at tuning out auditory stimuli that is irrelevant. This an area in which many autistic children struggle.
It Makes Them Better At Multi-tasking
Another benefit of getting learning a foreign language is that it will also make their brains more flexible--more specifically, their brain will become better at shifting from one specific task to next. In some cases, they may be able to focus on more than one specific task at one time. Foreign education requires that you shift between the grammar and vocabulary. Many children with ASD tend to struggle with transitioning, whether from a summer vacation to their school year or from English class to math. So this can help them to better manage and juggle all of their activities.
If you have a child who has autism, you should not rush to assume that they cannot learn a foreign language. In fact, there is a good chance that they may be even better than you at picking up a new language. And the great thing about it is that it will be of substantial value to them in their everyday life.
This is not to say that getting an education in a foreign language is the answer to all their struggles, to the contrary. It is important to keep in mind that there may be times in which the child may have a hard time concentrating and multi-tasking, despite their studying a foreign language. However, it is also important to keep in mind that even though these skills may not become perfect overnight, they will still become easier for them.
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