We are interested in common neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). We also investigate how the presence of different degrees of autistic traits impact language and non-verbal cognitive processing in neurotypical individuals with normal intelligence. Moreover, a main focus of this strand of research is on how growing up with more than one language (bilingualism) or dialect (bidialectalism) interact with neurodevelopmental disorders or with different degrees of autistic traits in neurotypical individuals in affecting language and non-verbal cognitive functioning and development. Understanding cognitive development in bilingual children is a crucial societal challenge in a predominantly bilingual world, especially as the prevalence of children with ASD and DLD is now estimated at approximately 1% and 7%, respectively. Addressing this question is also even more urgent, given the widely held, but not evidence-based, beliefs that children with neurodevelopmental disorders cannot develop and function bilingually and that learning an additional language might have further negative effects on the development of children who are already facing severe difficulties. We focus on both children and adults. We are particularly interested in (a) pragmatic knowledge and performance, the use and interpretation of language or non-verbal behaviors (e.g., gaze direction) in context so people can communicate and understand intentions or intended meanings; (b) executive functions, a set of attention- and memory-related processes that regulate cognition and behavior in line with internal goals and current context; (c) non-verbal fluid intelligence, the ability to reason in novel situations and solve new problems independently of past knowledge; and (d) aspects of core language such as vocabulary knowledge. A related focus is on adapting widely-used English instruments that assess the presence of ASD traits (e.g., Autism-Spectrum Quotient) for use with Greek-speaking bilinguals and bidialectals; and on examining their psychometric properties (e.g., internal reliability) by administering those to large numbers of participants.
Autism and Cognition in Bilingual/Bidialectal Speakers. Funded by the Cyprus Research and Innovation Foundation (€60,000). Coordinator: Dr Kyriakos Antoniou. In collaboration with Prof. Kakia Petinou.
Bilingualism, pragmatics, and cognition in children with autism. Funded by an individual fellowship from the Wiener-Anspach Foundation (€32,108). Individual postdoctoral fellow: Dr Kyriakos Antoniou. Supervisor: Prof. Mikhail Kissine.