middle school students in classroom wearing masks

Swimming Upstream

by Danielle Figueira

Sodano Family

The Lesson of Self-Advocacy

Lee Sodano understands the crucial role advocacy plays in her family and how her son, Antonio, has developed that skill at Landmark.

“Before I became a mother to our two boys, I didn’t speak up for myself much. Then after having two babies sick at birth, that changed very quickly, and I soon found my voice and have been using it for the last 16 years,” Lee explains.

“Our youngest son, Mateo, has dystonic cerebral palsy and is nonverbal, non-mobile, and has many health issues. I have had to speak for him his whole life. Additionally, I have had to advocate for our oldest son, Antonio ’19, due to his learning disabilities.

“As the boys got older, my husband, Angelo, and I had hoped Antonio could advocate for himself more independently, but as his schoolwork increased, his ability to keep up was declining. I had been so involved with Mateo’s physical health issues that I didn’t realize how much Antonio was struggling academically until high school. Angelo and I had to step in to get what Antonio needed, and we knew Landmark could provide this.”

Antonio SodanoLee acknowledges that having two kids with significantly different disabilities is a challenge. “It felt like swimming upstream against the current every day,” she says. “For Mateo I have had to practically become a nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, and translator. But for Antonio I wasn’t sure how we could help him until we were introduced to Landmark.”

The Best Gift

Lee firmly believes that Landmark has supported her eldest son the way no public school system ever could. “Our lives have changed dramatically since Antonio started at Landmark. Antonio himself has become more confident and independent, which is the best gift for any parent.”

“Advocacy is an everyday occurrence in our lives as parents of two differently abled children. As a mother, I have become stronger and wiser because of it,” Lee says. “Advocating for yourself is something all schools should teach children from a very young age. We are so grateful for the help that Landmark has provided to Antonio. He has learned the necessary skill of advocacy and that his hard work and effort can be realized and valued.”

Photo credits:

Portrait of Antonio: Carl Gasowski

Family photo: courtesy of Lee Sodano

Article originally published in The Lantern, Fall/Winter 2017-2018