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Languages and Learning Delays

April 21, 2013

This might be a weird post, compared to some of the things that other polyglots (and aspiring polyglots) write.

For those who don’t follow my other blogs, my eldest son has Autism.  His expressive language is delayed quite a bit compared to peers of his own age, and even his receptive language is behind due to the way his Autism presents.

On the other hand, we also live in a neighborhood where he’s going to hear more than one language, and since he’s been very young, I’ve been speaking both English and (my limited) Hebrew around the house to get him exposed.  (We live in the middle of an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, so it makes sense for him to understand.  We’ve had incidents where the neighbors have switched into Hebrew, thinking I wouldn’t understand.)

I do remember at one point worrying about how exposure to multiple languages might be harming his progress, and we did cut back for a short while until his developmental pediatrician reassured us that this wouldn’t be causing a problem.  On the other hand, we’ve had at least one time where what he was saying to responses (usually for ‘Daddy’) had been marked down as ‘babble’, since he’s accustomed to calling me אבא at home.

I think what is most interesting is how, despite his delays, he actually understands a good set of phrases in both English and Hebrew.  His mother gives him direction in English since she’s monolingual, and I tend to give him instructions in Hebrew, and he follows them generally equally well.  He doesn’t actually speak any Hebrew aside from אבא, or counting to ten, or yes/no (and not to questions)… but it certainly seems like however slowly he’s picking up language at all, he’s picking it up in both at the same time…

I have to wonder, as he gets older, how much he’ll be able to express in Hebrew, or if he’ll have issues picking up another language…

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