Trilingual kids & language delays?? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 02-12-2010, 06:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm asking about this for a friend.

Her daughter, K, is being raised with 3 languages - her mother's language, her father's language, and the language of the country she is being raised in. K is nearly 4 years old and she doesn't talk. She literally doesn't say a single word. She does understand a lot though, and communicates non-verbally by pointing, whining, etc. I should also add that she started saying a few words around 16 months (before she started daycare) but stopped saying them and never picked up any more.

Anyway, K has recently been diagnosed as autistic. Her mother is somewhat unsure about the diagnosis and feels that her language delay could be a result of her having 3 languages.

Finally getting to my point - does anyone know of any other trilingual (or multilingual) children with such a dramatic language delay?

TIA!

My baby is 2 years old! How did that happen?!
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#2 of 17 Old 02-12-2010, 08:10 PM
 
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This was our goal for our kid (to be born in a couple of days). I am an English speaking Canadian, my husband is from Spain and we currently live in France. I've ordered a couple of books on childhood language acquisition in a multilingual setting, but I haven't received them yet.
If anyone else has anything to share, I'd love to read more responses. Sorry OP for not being more helpful.

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#3 of 17 Old 02-12-2010, 08:50 PM
 
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Originally Posted by PretzelMama View Post
I should also add that she started saying a few words around 16 months (before she started daycare) but stopped saying them and never picked up any more.
I hate to say this, but language *regression* is concerning.

By itself, I don't think the fact that this child is not talking at 4 is out of the realm of normal - yeah it's really late but not necessarily indicative of an underlying disorder, especially given the trilingual thing.

But regression of existing language skills is more of a red flag for autism-spectrum or Rett's.

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#4 of 17 Old 02-13-2010, 02:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This was our goal for our kid (to be born in a couple of days). I am an English speaking Canadian, my husband is from Spain and we currently live in France. I've ordered a couple of books on childhood language acquisition in a multilingual setting, but I haven't received them yet.
If anyone else has anything to share, I'd love to read more responses. Sorry OP for not being more helpful.
Don't let this deter you! To the best of my knowledge, this is highly unusual and she almost certainly does have autism. This is definitely not the norm for trilingual kids.

My baby is 2 years old! How did that happen?!
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#5 of 17 Old 02-13-2010, 04:41 PM
 
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I hate to say this, but language *regression* is concerning.

By itself, I don't think the fact that this child is not talking at 4 is out of the realm of normal - yeah it's really late but not necessarily indicative of an underlying disorder, especially given the trilingual thing.

But regression of existing language skills is more of a red flag for autism-spectrum or Rett's.
ITA with this one. If a child speaking one or several languages (doesn't matter) regresses, this can be a bad sign. The only exception is if there's been a big change in their life, i.e. a move or little sibling. That can cause a slight regression.

Actually, I know someone whose child was diagnosed late because they moved, had another baby and even I kept saying "Well of course he's delayed!" I later apologized but she assure me, saying there were other symptoms and worries that she didn't express to me. The late speaking was, in fact, one of the lesser symptoms of the autism!

Please don't let your friend think that the autism was caused or made worse with the languages. Simply not true. The proof is her comprehension.

Funny you mention this because I invited a family over Monday. They're bilingual and one son is autistic. He speaks both and learned both late.

Would these children have spoken earlier if they hadn't had the other languages? Not sure but in the end, who cares. Switching languages or getting rid of one or two might be more disturbing than just keeping her life on the same track. It also might not be fair to ask a parent of a special needs child to communicate in a foreign language with his or her own child. Already, communication might be at a premium...

Just on a personal note, the fact that this child does try to communicate, even non-verbally, is a good sign. I have a (monolingual) autistic cousin. She's made amazing progress and will probably be able to get an education and make a living as an adult. We're all very proud of her. Personal interaction is where she needed the most work and while it's not entirely natural for her, she does really well now.

It's normal that parents feel guilty when something like this is discovered. They will hunt down a reason, something they did wrong, with vengeance, whatever it could possibly be. A glass of wine once while pregnant? The epi they had during the birth? Not reading enough to the child as a toddler? Trust me, she'd find something even if they all only spoke one language!
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#6 of 17 Old 02-14-2010, 12:46 PM
 
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I'd be worried about the language regression as well, that is a red flag.

And our kids are trilingual, and my latest speaker was still a little chatterbox by 2.5 years old.
So, linchi, this is not the norm of trilingual kids, some of them are later speakers, but usually not that late. And being trilingual is a great gift, and a big advantage!

It's not the parents fault, that's for sure, they did not cause this by being trilingual.

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#7 of 17 Old 02-15-2010, 11:40 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all for your responses! There isn't much literature about trilingualism out there, so it's very helpful to hear about people first-hand experiences.

Just to make it clear, I didn't in any way mean to imply that I or K's parents felt that being trilingual had caused or worsened her autism. That's not what I meant at all! It hadn't even occurred to me to look at it that way. My friends were hoping that maybe, just maybe the autism diagnosis might be wrong, and that her language delay may be better explained by her trilingualism. That said, they have largely accepted the diagnosis. K is doing early intervention and is in good hands.

My baby is 2 years old! How did that happen?!
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#8 of 17 Old 02-16-2010, 09:01 AM
 
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So, this is the book that I picked up (it arrived the other day) and after flipping through, I think it's excellent! It actually has info about multilingual kids with learning disabilities, although I admit I haven't read that section. Maybe it could be useful for your friends?

My family = me + dh & ds +
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#9 of 17 Old 02-16-2010, 09:53 AM - Thread Starter
 
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So, this is the book that I picked up (it arrived the other day) and after flipping through, I think it's excellent! It actually has info about multilingual kids with learning disabilities, although I admit I haven't read that section. Maybe it could be useful for your friends?
Thanks! Our DD is bilingual too so I'll take a look at it.

My baby is 2 years old! How did that happen?!
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#10 of 17 Old 06-03-2010, 02:30 AM
 
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What a great discussion! As others said here, children growing up with more than one language does not increase or decrease the chance of language delay, regression, Autism, etc. Here are a few articles which came out this past week on our website to address just such questions:

Does Bilingualism Cause Language Delay?

An Ask Madalena question with a fabulous discussion in the comments section - I was thrilled to see the detailed information:
Help! Does He Have Language Delay, Autism or Neither?

Hope those articles help! Together with the great information here (as well as Barbara Pearson's fabulous book!) you are set to make some informed decisions. Seeing a speech therapist is always a good idea. If they suggest that you stop speaking more than one language, you can ask them for the research that indicates that trilingualism has anything to do with the basic speech problems (they probably won't be able to find any).

Cheers,
Corey
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#11 of 17 Old 11-16-2011, 03:52 AM
 
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I have 3 children that are trilingual , all 3 are very different in their learning styles and delays.

 

My eldest who is now 14 , never had any problems and seems to flow nicely though the system in L2 and L3  - L1 was/is  being tought/ spoken at home.I thought that all my children would be the same - easy no probs - I was wrong.

 

My youngest 4 is slightly behind her peers currently - ie she cant count to 50 yet in L2 or L3 like some (not all) of her class.However none of her class are learning 3 languages either.Her teacher is not concerned as this is only natural for a child taking on board 3 languages - in our experience.

 

My second child - is a totaly different kettle of fish. From the start he has struggled, at times in his schooling he has been 2-3 years behind his peers in languages and other subjets , he found it very hard at times and has had extra help in school and home. He has been tested for all sorts however the doctors dont want to "class him" and say it is just the fact he is learning 3 languages and has had an unsettled time.

This year he has come into his own - 7 years on, he is back to the same learning age as his peers , he still has the extra help to make sure he doesnt regress. He did it in his own time. There are still certain issues with delay for him ,but now not to the extent there was in the past.

 

It has been my personal experience as a mother of 3 , bilingual and a teacher that learning 3 languages can delay a child, and each child is different and you need to match the childs needs individualy.

 

However all 3 of my children spoke at the right time and I never had an issue with them not conversing - even if at times I didnt understand them as they where getting all 3 langauges mixed.

 

 

 

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#12 of 17 Old 11-24-2011, 06:09 PM
 
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http://www.earlyinterventionsupport.com/parentingtips/specialneeds/bilingualism.aspx

 

Here's another link on the same note :) I think there's a lot of confusion that surrounds multilingualism and language delays simply because some studies say yes, if you raise your kid with more than one language, they will be delayed while others say no, they won't be. But the reality of the matter is that if you compare a monolingual child and a trilingual child and both of them have a vocabulary of 6 words, the lists are going to look like this:

Monolingual: mom, dad, ball, book, dog, cup

Trilingual: mom, dad, mama, papa, isä, äiti

They both have the same vocabulary, but to the monolingual listener, they're going to hear that the trilingual child only has 2 words and is therefore appears "delayed" when the reality of it is that they're still meeting the same language milestones as the monolingual child.. Then there are the normal wide variations in language acquisition among children--it's a wide range of normal and if your child falls on the later range of normal, they're still normal if they're monolingual, but for some reason as soon as you throw another language into the mix, they're delayed blahblah.gif

So yea, even if they're autistic, they'll still learn to speak if they're going to lean how to speak. Multilingualism doesn't change that!


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#13 of 17 Old 11-25-2011, 03:02 AM
 
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That's a good point but my son might have had 5 or 6 words in both languages at age 2 1/2.  He just didn't say anything! He really didn't get discouraged and he had absolutely no other signs of a learning problem. He was very social and outgoing. He just...didn't...talk... 

 

Then it was like the lifting of the floodgates. At about 2 1/2, he just started bursting out in words in both languages and by the time he was 3, or perhaps just after (I put him in preschool at 3 yrs. 3 months) he was at age level. 

 

Many parents raising children in more than one language report similar experiences. The child is silent, silent, silent, but understanding his/her languages well. Then boom! the project gets going. 

 

If this is in fact typical, this would explain the "behind/not behind" debate. If you had tested my son (and my youngest) at age 2, he would have failed miserably (even counting words in both languages) and by 3, he was speaking at least French at age level (the English quickly followed). At 3 1/2, he might have even been ahead if you counted his vocabulary in both languages. 

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#14 of 17 Old 03-12-2012, 07:14 PM
 
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I'd also like to add that for some Dr's, knowing a word in two (or three) language counts only as one word, as opposed to two (or three), thus reducing the number of words a child has.  

And yeah, I do agree that understanding is a big thing.  The number of words a child says is not as important as what he or she understands. 

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#15 of 17 Old 03-18-2012, 06:51 PM
 
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We are a multilingual household and language acquisition has not been a problem in all of the languages we speak etc. My 2y 4m old never had issues. None of the kids had issues.

 

All of my friends' children also don't have issues due to languages. The one family member who does have an issue has a son with moderate Autism. All of the therapists have advised them to use only one language until his language skills were improved.  They did that, with therapy he improved and is perfect.  And also speaks and reads other languages now. 

 

I'd say it's not probably the number of languages at this age, but rather something else. You'd need to see someone to get that checked. I'd be concerned.


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#16 of 17 Old 03-20-2012, 07:18 AM
 
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I know a bilingual child with severe autism so stopping one language is probably unnecessary. 

 

Once you switch languages on a child, it can be difficult to switch back. The language might be lost and the child would be at a disadvantage in communicating with his parent(s). 

 

Children with a variety of learning disorders still go on to speak more than one growing up. Be very careful of any "professional" who tells you to drop a language. They may know their subject but they may not know much about bilingualism. 

 

 

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#17 of 17 Old 03-25-2012, 04:48 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bena View Post

I'd also like to add that for some Dr's, knowing a word in two (or three) language counts only as one word, as opposed to two (or three), thus reducing the number of words a child has.  

And yeah, I do agree that understanding is a big thing.  The number of words a child says is not as important as what he or she understands. 



Well some doctors still advise against breastfeeding, so I guess you just have to be careful what issues you bring up with your doctor if they might not be supportive of some of the things you're doing :p


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