Read Next

Autism in another language inspires alumna

Tenacity, intelligence and commitment to an underserved population.

Autism in another language inspires alumna by Alex Vagelatos

An interest in teaching and a desire to help Milwaukee’s Spanish-speaking community started Celina Echeveste on her career path.

But it was a trip to her parents’ native Mexico that helped her discover a particular way she, as a future bilingual special education teacher, could make a difference.

“I recall the first time that I met Celina … I was impressed with her tenacity, intelligence and commitment.”

Maureen Keyes, associate professor of exceptional education

The 2012 School of Education graduate, now a teacher at Forest Home School, saw how children with special needs were sometimes treated in Mexico.

“I saw parents who were ashamed of these children, and they weren’t getting the help they needed,” Echeveste says. That observation led her to research autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and non-English-speaking families for her master’s degree program – and to create a guidebook that would help them identify the disorders early on. “I did not want parents here to feel that way about their children just because they didn’t understand or know enough about autism.”

Says Maureen Keyes, associate professor of exceptional education and Echeveste’s graduate adviser: “I recall the first time that I met Celina. She heard that I had experience in the area of ASD and took the chance that we could work together. I was impressed with her tenacity, intelligence and commitment from that first meeting.”

The guidebook Echeveste created covers the characteristics and initial warning signs of ASD, and includes school and community resources as well as pamphlets printed in Spanish. Echeveste hopes to have the entire guidebook translated.

“Children in Spanish-speaking families and African American children tend to be diagnosed less often than others. Maybe they don’t have the resources, or they don’t understand what autism is. I have a lot of parents come in and say they wish they had the resources earlier.”