Multilingualism and anxiety are core research and policy issues (DfE, 2018). Anxiety disorders, a feeling of unease, worry or fear, are the most prevalent mental disorders and are associated with immense healthcare costs. Autism affects communication and behaviour (DSM-V, 2013). 1/100 people (700,000 people in the UK) have ASD. 50% of them exhibit significant anxiety, disrupting their day-to-day function. Anxiety exacerbates social withdrawal and repetitive behaviours. Left untreated, anxiety leads to depression and self-injury -early recognition/treatment convey better prognosis.
39% of the UK population is multilingual (EC, 2012). Researchers, practitioners, and politicians assembled at the House of Commons called for comprehensive policies recognising the UK as a multilingual society, and ensuring provisions are developed to protect languages (May, 2019).
There are over 1.5million learners with English as an Additional Language (EAL) in the UK. 150,000 multilingual pupils are estimated to have ASD, ~75,000 presenting with severe anxiety.
Benefits of multilingualism in people with typical cognition have been well-established. These benefits appear early and persist across the lifespan. Multilinguals perform better in memory and attention, experience slower cognitive-ageing, develop dementia 3–6 years later, and recover better from stroke (Bak, 2016). Previous research concluded that multilinguals have less anxiety.
However, if being multilingual reduces anxiety also in autistic individuals, is yet to be examined.
Lead Academic at Lead University
Dr Ozge Ozturk University of Sheffield
Lead Academics at other Universities
Dr Liz Littlewood, University of York
Dr Paula Clarke, University of Leeds
Other Staff associated with this project
Prof Elizabeth Milne, University of Sheffield, Department of Psychology
Prof Patricia Cowell, Health Sciences School, Division of Human Communication Sciences
Emma Morgan, University of Sheffield, Department of Psychology,
Marta Borowka, University of Sheffield, Health Sciences School, Division of Human Communication Sciences,
Sarah Cobbe, University of Leeds, School of Education,
Dr Megan Freeth, University of Sheffield, Department of Psychology
Dr Meesha Warmington, University of Sheffield, The School of Education
Dr Judith Hebron, University of Leeds, School of Education
Dr David Marshall, University of York, Centre for Reviews and Dissemination
Dr Lisa Henderson, University of York, Department of Psychology
Prof Li Wei, University College London, UCL Institute of Education
Dr Napoleon Katsos, University of Cambridge, Theoretical and Applied Linguistics
Dr Thomas Bak, University of Edinburgh, Department of Psychology