Adaptive Behavior in Children with ASD with Monolingual and Bilingual Language Experience

Friday, May 13, 2016: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
S. B. Vanegas, K. Acharya and L. Sandman, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL

Children with ASD typically present challenges across multiple areas of functioning.  Adaptive behavior skills can yield practical information on the everyday functioning of children with ASD.  The Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (Sparrow et al., 1984, 2005) has been developed as a parent interview to capture skills in communication, daily living, socialization, and motor domains and has been widely used in ASD research (e.g., McDonald et al., 2015).  However, there is limited research on adaptive behavior skills among racial/ethnically diverse children with ASD.  Evaluating adaptive behavior skills of children from diverse backgrounds can be a critical step in developing effective treatment goals.


The current study intends to fill a gap in empirical data on adaptive behavior skills in a diverse sample of children with ASD with monolingual and bilingual language experience.


Clinical records for children with ASD between 3 and 12 years of age were reviewed from a developmental disabilities clinic located in a large diverse city in the United States.  Data was extracted from the clinical record including demographics, language experiences, and scores for the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales and nonverbal IQ.  Children were eligible for inclusion if they were verbal and had a nonverbal IQ score greater than 70.  Children’s language status was determined by review of clinician observations, parent-report of language use in the home/school, and language use reported in IEP reports.  The preliminary sample included 57 children, with a mean age of 6.20 years.  The monolingual group included 15 children (53% White, 47% African-American; 100% male) and the bilingual group included 42 children (100% Latino; 93% male, 7% female).


Preliminary analyses demonstrated that the bilingual group was older than the monolingual group and no differences were found in nonverbal IQ between groups.  A MANOVA was then conducted on the standard scores for the Communication, Daily Living Skills, and Socialization subscales of the Vineland across child language groups, with age as a covariate.  These analyses found that parent-reported communication skills did not differ between monolingual and bilingual children with ASD, F(1, 54) = 1.30, p = .260.  Analyses also showed that bilingual children with ASD had more intact daily living skills, F(1, 54) = 6.80, p = .012, partial η2 = .11, and more intact socialization skills, F(1, 54) = 5.97, p = .018, partial η2 = .10, than monolingual children with ASD.


The preliminary results finds that within a diverse sample of children with ASD, children with bilingual language experience had greater daily living and socialization skills when compared to children with monolingual language experience.  These results are supported by one study comparing simultaneous and sequential bilingual children with ASD (Hambly & Fombonne, 2012).  These results suggest that bilingual language experience may afford children with ASD additional opportunities for developing adaptive behavior skills.  Additional data is needed to determine if adaptive behavior skills vary due to language experience or cultural values.  These results contribute to the field by providing empirical evidence on diverse language experiences and adaptive behavior in children with ASD.