International Meeting for Autism Research (London, May 15-17, 2008): The Learning of Foreign Languages by High Functioning Autistic Children

The Learning of Foreign Languages by High Functioning Autistic Children

Saturday, May 17, 2008
Champagne Terrace/Bordeaux (Novotel London West)
C. Besnard , French Department, York University - Glendon College, Toronto, ON, Canada
Background: Today, more and more children are being diagnosed as being autistic, and because communication impairments are at the core of their disorder, speech-pathologists as well as educators tend to recommend that their language learning be limited to one language, namely the language of the community they live in.

Objectives: Given this situation, we would like to argue that high functioning autistic children as well as Asperger Syndrome children can learn foreign languages (L2), and become bilingual.
Therefore, we will show that like the population with learning disabilities who appears to benefit from L2 learning, the high functioning autistic language learners can benefit from L2 learning as it seems to have a positive impact on their linguistic, cognitive, social, psychological and cultural development.
We will also argue that like with the regular population, L2 learning by high functioning autistic learners can lead to a transfer of knowledge from
L2 to L1 (their first language), and consequently can improve and strengthen their command of L1 which is an asset for this population.

Methods: Research in:
- The peculiar learning style of high functioning autistic language learners,
- Psycholinguistics applied to the learning of L2 by students with learning disabilities (Bruck 1978 and 1982, Carrasquillo et al. 1990, Crago et al.
2005, Cummins 1985, Difino et al. 2004, Ganschow et al. 1991 and 1998, Genesee 1992 and 2004, Hill et al. 1995, Saenz 2005, Scott 2000, Sparks 2001, Wire 2002),
- Foreign Language Didactics,
- 15 year first hand experience with the tutoring of an ASD student to learn French as an L2.

Results: n/a

Conclusions: Given the capacity of this population to learn L2 as well as their particular learning style, we will explore what kind of methodology and teaching strategies seem to facilitate and maximize their L2 learning.

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