Can Bilingualism Mitigate Set-Shifting Difficulties in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Child Dev. 2019 Jul;90(4):1043-1060. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12979. Epub 2017 Nov 7.


This study investigated the effects of bilingualism on set-shifting and working memory in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Bilinguals with ASD were predicted to display a specific bilingual advantage in set-shifting, but not working memory, relative to monolinguals with ASD. Forty 6- to 9-year-old children participated (20 ASD, 20 typically-developing). Set-shifting was measured using a computerized dimensional change card sort (DCCS) task, and by parent report of executive functioning in daily life. Results showed an advantage for bilingual relative to monolingual children with ASD on the DCCS task, but not for set-shifting in daily life. Working memory was similar for bilinguals and monolinguals with ASD. These findings suggest that bilingualism may mitigate some set-shifting difficulties in children with ASD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Child
  • Executive Function*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Multilingualism*
  • Vocabulary