Today’s New Latina’s Spotlight is on Lisa Quiñones-Fontañez, Creator of AutismWonderland!!
Career and Professional Information: Legal Assistant by day. Graduate Student and Blog writer by night. Mommy at all times.
Degrees You Hold: I hold a BA in English, Lehman College. Currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing, City College of New York
Country of Origin or Family Heritage. Both of my parents were born in Puerto Rico but came to New York very young. I was born in Manhattan, raised in Queens and moved to The Bronx eleven years ago. Whenever I tell people that I’m originally from Queens I hear, “Why would you move to The Bronx? No one moves from Queens to The Bronx.” The Bronx is grossly underestimated; it’s full of history, beauty and culture. And as much as I love Queens, The Bronx is the place I call home.
Who Has Inspired You to Be Your Best? For the last three years, I’ve had a therapist in my home working with my son, Norrin. I’ve seen the progress he’s made since his autism diagnosis in 2008. Seeing how hard he works to achieve the milestones that other children reach so easily, has really inspired me. I’ve seen Norrin crying through therapy sessions but even though he’s tired or frustrated, he still makes the effort. Whenever I think I can’t do something, whenever I think something will be too difficult for me to achieve, I think of Norrin. I know there are things that Norrin may never be able to do well, but I expect him to do the best he can. I can’t expect him to do the best he can and not expect the same of myself.
25 Million Latinas and Counting! Your thoughts? I think it’s an exciting time to be Latina – especially for young Latina women. I think there is a wealth of possibilities that were unattainable for past generations. I think parents are placing higher expectations for their daughters. And I think that “settling for” is no longer an option. Slowly but surely, we are breaking out of the box and shattering the stereotypes.
Stilettos or flat shoes? This is a daily battle for me. While my eyes love the look of a stiletto, my feet long for flats. My feet usually win.
Favorite TV show(s): I love TV. From trash reality to cooking to dramadies – I love it all. But my current Top 5 are: Modern Family, Once Upon a Time, The Big Bang Theory, Law & Order SVU and Glee.
Describe a Perfect Day Off From Work As a special needs mom, I use many of my vacation days taking my son to appointments or when he’s sick. So for me, a perfect day off from work would be a day to be home alone, doing nothing but watching chick flicks or reading. No cooking, no cleaning, no laundry, no paperwork and no phone calls to make. Just me on my sofa. With a glass of wine.
What Has Been Your Biggest Challenge in Life? Growing up, I didn’t do well in school. I was lazy, one of those kids who never quite lived up to their potential. And there were times when I believed I was too stupid (especially in math and science) to even try. When I graduated high school, I don’t think anyone in my family really expected me to go to college. And after one semester, I dropped out to work full time at a department store. A few years later, when I wanted to return to school, I realized I couldn’t quit working. I had to manage both work and school. After 15 years, 9 jobs, 4 schools, a marriage and a baby, I graduated in the spring of 2008 – with honors. And that September I started graduate school. You would think after so many years of balancing work, school and family, I would be used to it. But it remains my biggest challenge. There are semesters when I want to give up, especially when family or friends question the purpose of an MFA degree. But then I think of Norrin. If he can get through the challenges in his life, so can I.
What is Your Next Big Dream? Living in The Bronx and raising a child with autism, our resources are extremely limited. Aside from the public schools, there is not a single school dedicated for school age autistic children. To be more specific, there is not a single school for autistic children like my son, Norrin. Norrin requires a school that addresses 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, 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 other parts of New York City, Westchester and Long Island. I believe an education is a right, not a luxury. And I believe your zip code should have nothing to do with the quality of service your child will receive. My big dream is to help provide Bronx families with options and endless possibilities for their children.
Please Visit: AutismWonderland