Adults with autism discuss their experiences of foreign language learning: an exploration of the "different strategies" hypothesis
Alonso, Marina Rodriguez
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Citation (published version)Meghan Garrity, Tiffany McGlowan, Shirui Chen, Juliana Wall, Marina Rodriguez Alonso, Lomasney Mia, Nguyen Vivien, Catherine Caldwell-Harris. 2018. "Adults with autism discuss their experiences of foreign language learning: An exploration of the "Different Strategies" hypothesis.."
How do persons who self-identify as having autism report their experience of second/foreign language learning? We propose a "different strategies" hypothesis: autistic individuals with verbal abilities will use their systemizing strengths to compensate for their reduced social abilities in order to learn a foreign language. Systemizing, the ability to analyze a multifaceted system, is a strength of those with autism. Qualitative analysis was used to analyze posts in online discussion forums where foreign language learning experiences were discussed. A thematic coding system was developed and two naive raters were trained to code posts for 20 theoretically relevant categories, including method of learning, number of languages mentioned, and outcomes of learning. We found that having a positive experience with reading and writing, while having a negative experience with speaking and listening, was more common in individuals with ASD. Additionally, avoiding conversation and a lower motivation to learn via social interaction were seen more often in the ASD forums. These novel results, taken from self-reported experiences, support the "different strategies" hypothesis and set the foundation for future experimental and quantitative research.