Campaign Champion, California
“When parents from my Latino-based community come to me with concerns about their child’s development, I tell them do not wait and see if your child gets better. If you suspect something, as I did, talk with your doctor,” says Sofía Quezada, a dedicated campaign champion and mother of a son with autism, Julian.
Sofía knew Julian was having problems with his development at a very young age. “I noticed he was not developing properly. It was a struggle every day for him to do things children his age were easily doing.” After taking him to his pediatrician several times, Sofía decided it was time to get a second opinion. She was referred to a school psychologist, who told her Julian might have autism. By that time, he was almost 4 years old.
“I didn’t have time to be devastated. I went directly into action mode,” says Sofía. “I tried to learn as much as I could about autism and got him the appropriate care as soon as possible. Julian is now 6 years old, and you can talk to him and observe him and would not suspect he has autism,” says Sofía.
Since Julian’s diagnosis, Sofía has been very active in the autism community, particularly helping people of her own culture in the Hispanic community. “I struggled so much to get Julian’s diagnosis. There were such huge barriers to find information. I am a researcher by profession and had many tools available. If it was a challenge for me, I can’t image how hard it is for someone who does not have many resources.” Sofía adds, “I am involved because I want to make sure no one else in my community or anywhere else has to struggle as I did.”
As Sofía learned more about childhood development and autism, she came upon the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign through the Cure Autism Now website. “I went to a campaign training session in 2004 and thought this was perfect for my mission. I can use these materials to inform other parents and families in my community,” said Sofía.
Sofía ordered kits for all the clinics and private practices in her small Latino-based community. She also spoke one-on-one with parents and teachers. “The Latino clinics and pediatricians love the information. I gave the kits out to everyone-doctors, parents, and preschool teachers. Now when they start running out, they actually call me to bring more!”
Sofía’s involvement doesn’t stop in her community. She is involved with Cure Autism Now and also volunteers with the Foothill Autism Alliance in Los Angeles. She has been featured in Redbook, Newsweek, and Parent Guide magazines. She was also interviewed by Univision, the most watched Hispanic television station in the United States, and “101 Uses for Baby Wipes”, a podcast targeting fathers with information about children’s issues and causes.
Sofía explains that many people in her area do not speak English and are not familiar with developmental milestones and autism.
“Sometimes parents believe that if you don’t pay attention to a problem with your child, it will just go away.” Sofía adds, “I tell parents to take a look at my son: he is living proof that if you address the problem early, a child can improve greatly.”
For more information on how you can reach out to health professionals in your area, visit the How to Get Involved page of the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” website.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
TTY: (888) 232-6348
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