Brazilian Child Born with Autism and Difficulties to Talk, now Speaks 9 Languages

His Parents Thought He Was Born with Hearing Problems

In Brazil, the story of Rafael Lancer, a child with an autism spectrum disorder, has captivated the international community. During his first 2 years of life, the child showed no signs that he could speak or communicate in any way.

Even his parents thought he was born with hearing problems. However, today, he is 7 years old and speaks 9 languages. Juliana Lancer Mayer, Rafael’s mother, took her baby -2 years old, at that time- to the neuro-pediatrician. He was diagnosed with autism. He tried to seek other medical opinions and 3 of them told him the same.

As the days of his growth passed, his parents wondered what he could do to have his son develop and socialize in the ‘outside world’ if they were not certain that he was going to speak at some point. “My other children developed rapidly, but it took longer for Rafael even to learn how to sit when he was a little child. Until 2 years old, he did not interact, did not look in the eyes, and seemed to be deaf. We took him to specialized tests that showed that he had no hearing problems”, Juliana Lancer Mayer tells the BBC News Brazil network.

The Lancer family

He was taken to several therapists so they can help him communicate despite the difficulties of autism, but the methods did not solve anything. The mother says she was recommended to give the child a tablet as a form of ‘therapy’. She and her husband did not agree at all, but since the options were few, they preferred to do so.

The device changed the child’s life. He concentrated so much on the content that he saw that not without imagining it he learned the language in which the videos with which he interacted were original in English. “I was worried because, suddenly, she began to speak as if she spoke the language fluently, without having received classes or left the country”, said the mother.

For BBC News Brazil, Rafael’s mother, Juliana Lancer Mayer, said that her son did not speak any language other than English, even though his original language is Portuguese. They decided, with the help of a neuro-psychologist, to enhance the child’s abilities with autism so that he can have better communication with his parents.

How Juliana Lancer Mayer helped his son, Rafael, in his development

Tatiana Schmidt, the professional who worked with Rafael says that Portuguese was the 4th language the child learned. However, he feels more comfortable with English. That motivated his parents to start learning that language to get more to their son.

Juliana Lancer and her son Rafael, the autistic 7-ear-old-boy

“This can help you a lot in the future. Because autism is a disorder without a cure, our priority is to develop through its capabilities”, explains the specialist. Rafael is currently learning Arabic. “But now, I let him play with electronic devices only 2 hours a day, so he is not totally focused on that”, says his dad.

Hyperconcentration in children with autism

One of the characteristics of autism is a hyper concentration; that is, the ability of people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and can stay focused on a specific topic such as languages, astronomy or music, without being distracted by any other information.

In many cases this condition can help people who have it to develop different things with a surprising “magisteriality”.

How can ASD be diagnosed?

The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can be difficult to identify, since there is no medical evidence, such as blood tests, so doctors observe the child’s behavior and development. ASDs can be detected between 18 months and 2 years old.

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