An avid supporter of SPINALpedia, 27-year-old Sophia Sanford of Georgia exudes positivity. Sophia was born with spina bifida resulting in a T12-L2 level injury. Her smarts and drive has helped her become an expert on the topic. She made it her mission to empower others with disabilities to live successful, independent and happy lifestyles through the daily far-reaching impact of a simple positive can-do attitude.
Originally from Florida, Sophia moved to Atlanta with her family when she was 8. “I have always been unable to walk or stand,” she says. As she went through high school, she struggled with bullies and low self-esteem, but thanks to her strong family, she gained confidence. “I never felt any different from my peers,” she says, “as my parents were a huge support to me.”
Even more importantly, there was no room for pity in Sophia’s house. “My parents do not believe in pity. They always treated me like my younger sibling,” she says. “I had chores such as laundry and dishes before I could watch television. In addition, I had to keep my grades up and, most importantly, I was expected to go to college, which I did.”
For parents of anyone with a child who has a SCI, Sophia has some advice. “Always help your kids do things independently,” she says. “Instead of having an expectation of living with the parents for the rest of their lives, encourage independence in self-care and advocacy. Pity does not help children to grow and move forward.”
Sophia recalls being bullied as a child, but says her upbringing came to the rescue. “Try to ignore ugly comments and be kind,” she says. “One thing that really helps is teaching others about your disability because peers make fun of things they don’t understand.”
Where is she going?
After graduating from high school, Sophia took college courses at Gwinett Tech in GA. “I wanted to gain experience in college course work, learn how to schedule classes, and decide if college was for me,” she says. “I left after two years, but to transfer to a different school.” In 2015, Sophia graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice.
Since Sophia also has a learning disability, she substituted science and math classes (they would have been difficult for her to pass) so she could get her degree. Sophia is proud of her achievement, and hopes to professionally become a victim advocate or disability advocate.
Here at SPINALpedia, we are hopeful and supportive of Sophia and her career goals. With all of her positivity and hard work, she will no doubt continue in a productive direction.
What do you think is the biggest differences between someone very young or later in life?
– Read more about Sophia: Insights Into Spina Bifida: A Home That Fits