How can emotions and multilingualism influence the school success of children with autism?
An educational problem with lifelong consequences
It is the aim of every education department to allow all children to reach their full potential and succeed academically. However, academic success is determined by numerous individual and socio-economic factors that are difficult to control and some children end up performing worse than their capacities would predict. Many of these cases are children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Children with ASD, particularly those with average or above average IQ, often have worse academic outcomes than expected given their cognitive abilities. The consequences of this can be lower grades, frequent changes of school, school exclusion, redirection towards special education schools, and dropping out of school. These have consequences to the well-being of the child and have repercussions into their adolescence and adulthood. The academic under achievement of children with ASD represents thus a societal challenge that needs to be tackled.
Possible leads to solve the problem
Even though this is a problem for many families of children with ASD, the research on the topic is scarce and the reasons why children with ASD have poorer academic outcomes remain unclear. It could be due to factors external to the child, such as pedagogical practices and the education system. It could also be due to individual factors such as the child’s socioemotional difficulties. Research with typically developing children demonstrates that children who use maladaptive emotion regulation strategies, such as becoming aggressive or constantly hiding their emotions, have more difficulties attending to new information and remembering it, thus leading to poorer school results. Since children with ASD have frequent emotional problems in the school setting and use more maladaptive emotion regulation strategies than other children, this could help explain their poorer school results.
In addition, language and cognitive processes are interconnected and emotions can foster that relation. Therefore, the language in which multilingual children express their emotions may have an impact on their cognitive abilities such as attention and memory.
Luxembourg, an ideal platform
Given Luxembourg’s multilingual context, it is the ideal platform to understand the potential effects emotions and language can have in children’s cognitive and academic performance.
The aim of the ASA project is thus to understand how emotional difficulties and multilingualism can have an influence in the cognitive abilities and school results of children with ASD. The results of the ASA project will enable to better understand factors affecting the academic underachievement of children with ASD and define strategies to tackle it.
The ASA project is a collaboration between the Department of Behavioural and Cognitive Sciences and the Department of Humanities at the University of Luxembourg and the Stanford Psychophysiology Laboratory at Stanford University.
The ASA project is funded by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (C19/SC/13651499/ASA). The project will run from 2020 to 2023 with a funding of 397,000€.