Thank You Sandra! Thank You Madalena! Thank You Multilingual Living Friends!

by expert · 3 comments

On May 25th , Multilingual Living posted an Ask Madalena question from a woman named Sandra who was writing on behalf of the Italian woman she tutors in English.  You can read her question and Madalena Cruz-Ferreira’s answer here: Help! Does He Have Language Delay, Autism or Neither?

A few days ago, an email arrived from Sandra giving us the latest status.  Madalena and I were so very touched by Sandra’s heart-felt description of what had happened in the past few months.  It truly tugged on our heart-strings.

We are honored and pleased that Multilingual Living was able to play such a pivotal role in this family making such informed decisions.  As you will read below, these informed decisions were due in a large part to your comments!

Thank you everyone for taking the time to be involved and to share your experiences, suggestions, concerns and insights with us all!  And thank you, Sandra, for sharing the following email with us!  Please let us know how things progress!

Dear Madalena,

I was overwhelmed by your answer and all the helpful responses that followed.  I had written to you explaining that I tutor English to an Italian woman who has a 23 month old child, etc. etc.

I wanted to share with you a little bit of what has happened as a result of all the information that you and the respondents shared with us.

For two months, my Italian student and I read through the responses and articles from connecting links and books.  It was a wealth of information I had not been able to find elsewhere.  I was so grateful to have stumbled into this website by accident, and so grateful for all of those caring people who responded.

By the end of July, we concluded that it was better to have her child tested for Autism sooner than later (he was presenting with some of the physical signs of Autism).  So when she went to Italy in August, she had him tested there.  Time was limited due to her travel and the expert there said she needed more visits to have conclusive findings.

When my student and her husband returned to the U.S. they had him tested here too at the University of Michigan Hospitals.  A diagnosis of mild Autism has been made and they are now deciding on what their options are.

They are going through a period of sadness and adjustment and I hope to find a support group for them.

Many thanks for your thought provoking responses. Please share this with your readers, if you think it is appropriate.


Thank you, Sandra, for taking the time to send us this heart-felt email.  Please continue to keep us updated!

If anyone else has a question for Madalena, Contact Us!

Madalena Cruz-Ferreira, PhD, University of Manchester, UK, is a multilingual parent, educator and scholar, and the author of Multilinguals are...?, a book on myths and misconceptions about multilingualism. Her blog Being Multilingual deals with multilingualism at home, in school and in clinic. Her contact, and details on her work, are at:

Disclaimer: This post and the comments provided below have been provided for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional financial, medical, legal, or other advice. This post has been published with the full consent of the author. The author has agreed to Madalena Cruz-Ferreira answering the Ask Madalena question publicly as well as readers leaving comments in the comment section below. Multilingual Living makes no representations or warranties and expressly disclaims any and all liability concerning any treatment or action by any person following the information offered or provided within or through this and any other information on this website. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional or medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. Please read our Terms of Use for more detail or contact us with any questions.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Maria H October 15, 2010 at 10:08 pm


How thoughtful of you to update everyone on such a challenging situation and kudos to you for being so much above and beyond a tutor for this family.

Below are a couple of websites that families in my classroom often found helpful. I hope they can help you all as well.

Best to you and I am so glad that this community was able to help.



2 Johanna Van Schalkwyk October 18, 2010 at 1:56 am

My trilingual 5-year-old displayed all the signs of autism when she was 2. She had very few words, her interaction with others was extremely limited, she didn’t make eye contact and most often chose to communicate through making sounds of joy, annoyance, frustration, anger etc. She hardly communicated with us. At playschool she stood in the corner of the garden collecting flowers while all the others children were playing happily.
Suffice it to say that I was extremely worried. Luckily I live in the countryside, where a speech therapist occasionally visits the school, but it’s harder to get a diagnosis regarding other issues, like autism, etc. I was also so fortunate that the speech therapist who does come here, had faith in multilingualism, and even though she also had concerns about autism, she suggested we just give it a while and see. Three years later, my daughter is one of the most social creatures I know, and doesn’t hesitate to express herself to EVERYone and EVERYwhere, regardless of whether people understand her mishmash of 3 languages. She most likely suffers from central auditory processing disorder, which has nothing to do with multilingualism or autism, BUT she is most certainly not autistic, and never was.
I sometimes think we are so eager to get a “diagnosis”, almost as if that would present a cure of some kind, that we don’t give things time to run its due course. At 2, my daughter was adapting to a new environment in playschool, where her 3rd language is the only language of communication. Her father and I had just split up after 17 years together, and he had gone overseas for some time. Added to that I had an extremely busy schedule, so she didn’t have the grounding in the mother tongue that she needed. As an adult, one would have a hard time adjusting to such big changes. Imagine what it’s like for a child. It made perfect sense for her to withdraw and appear autistic – life was pretty overwhelming. Wouldn’t you do the same?
I would suggest to every multilingual parent to look at the whole picture, talk and read to their children, spend lots of communication time with them and whatever you do, just give yourselves TIME before you try and get a diagnosis.


3 Kathy November 11, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Hi All:

I respectfully disagree with Johanna. While I am delighted to hear that nothing to worry about in her daughter’s case, it is dangerous to extrapolate from a single case. In the US, the number of children with Autism is skyrocketing. No one is exactly sure why but its likely that some mix of genetic and environmental triggers are responsible.

“Treatment” for Autism is behavioral and thus completely non-invasive. If you are worried about Autism, do NOT give yourself time – please. By the time your absolutely sure that there’s a problem the early intervention window will have slammed shut.

The worse that can happen, really, is that your child will get some speech therapy (maybe occupational therapy or other types of specialized instruction) and then won’t need it. Big deal.

If you are worried about Autism, get your child screened or assessed NOW.


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