Meet Lisa Quinones Fontanez
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Name: Lisa Quinones Fontanez
Hometown (optional): Elmhurst, Queens (New York)
Education: Lehman College (B.A. English) City College (MFA Creative Writing, 2012)
Profession/Occupation: Legal Administrative Assistant/Writer/Student/Autism Awareness Advocate
Web site: www.AutismWonderland.com
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you "grew up?"
As a child, I had an extremely vivid imagination so I changed my mind often. I wanted to be a lawyer, actress, writer, teacher, nun (only after seeing The Sound of Music), flight attendant and a Solid Gold dancer.
What has been the "proudest" moment in your life?
After 15 years, 4 schools, 9 jobs, a marriage and a baby I graduated (with honors) from Lehman College in May 2008. I don’t think there’s anything in my life I earned more than my Bachelors degree. Every time I had to take a semester off, something kept pulling me back to finish. It became a personal goal more than anything else.
The week before my graduation, my son, Norrin, was diagnosed with Autistic Disorder and Global Developmental Delay. At 2 years and 3 months Norrin had the cognitive level of a 14 month old and the language level of a 7 month old. He couldn’t point, wave or clap. He had no real words. He couldn’t jump or imitate behavior. Although intensive Applied Behavior Analysis, Occupational, Physical and Speech therapies were recommended – we were offered little hope.
Norrin is now 5 years old and he has made great strides. It has been truly amazing to witness his development. While graduating from Lehman was a proud moment for me, I think of all the progress Norrin has made in the last three years. I think of how hard he’s worked to achieve milestones that come so easily for other children. Every new word he’s spoken, every song he’s song, every look in the eye, every single goal accomplished, instantly becomes my proudest moment. So I feel really lucky – I have a proud moment, every single day.
What does being a Latina woman mean to you?
This is a difficult question for me. I am not fluent in Spanish, so growing up I was never ‘Latina’ enough for my peers. But as I grew up, the more interested I became in my history and the more I identified with the culture. And I learned that I didn’t need to speak the words to understand the beauty of its language. Being a Latina woman means pride, integrity, resilience.
What advice do you have for today's young Latinas?
Do not be afraid to explore all of your options, no matter how unattainable or unrealistic you think they are. It is best to make an informed decision rather than making one out of fear of failure.
What Latina in your life has been a major inspiration and role model?
I would have to say my mother and my madrina. As cliché as it sounds, they really are the strongest women I know. Their 50+ years of friendship has inspired me and given me the appreciation to cherish and nurture my own friendships.
What is your favorite quote or saying that you live by in life?
Believe in yourself. If you spend your life waiting for someone else to believe in you, to motivate you, to validate your dreams – you may be waiting a really long time.
If there was one experience in your life that you could do over, what is it and what would it be?
It would be a lie if I said I had no regrets. But just when I catch myself dreaming of turning back time, I think of my life right now, and I am grateful. If my life had gone in a different direction, I may not appreciate the journey my life has taken me on. So for me, my so called regrets give me the opportunity to reflect on how my life has worked itself out.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Living in the Bronx and raising a child with autism, our resources are extremely limited. Aside from the District 75 schools and the ASD Horizon/Nest programs, there is not a single school dedicated to children with autism in the Bronx. Let me be more specific. There is not a single school in the Bronx for children with autism like my son, Norrin.
Children like Norrin need a school that addresses behaviors (self stimulating behaviors), facilitates socialization and provides an education as well as teaching life skills; a school that cultivates creativity and builds confidence. Children like Norrin need a combination of ABA and TEACCH methodologies, a sensory room (with an occupational therapist who is on site, not contracted) a school staffed with Speech Pathologists, Behaviorists and Special Educators who have a true understanding of autism. A school like this is a dream for families like mine. And these “dream” schools exist in Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Westchester and Long Island.
In 10 years, I see myself as a founder of my own dream school in the Bronx for children like my son.
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Latinas Inspired by Monique Frausto is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.LatinasInspire.com.