Sophia Acosta: The Smile that Sparkles!

To look at the bright countenance and cheerful enthusiasm seven-year-old Sophia Acosta shows the world, one would never guess at what her mother, Leyda, calls ‘a miracle’ in her infancy. Leyda reports that Sophia’s condition, known as spina bifida, was identified during the 20th week of her pregnancy. At 25 weeks, fetal surgery was performed to correct the incomplete closing of the spine and the membranes around the spinal cord in Sophia’s lower back.

From that early start, Sophia began surprising her family and her obstetric team: Where the doctor had planned her C-section delivery at 37 weeks (on May 6th), Sophia anticipated their plans by making her own choice to arrive naturally and unassisted on May 5th—one important day early!

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But the miracle that Leyda points to is her daughter’s immediate self-sufficiency: Where most infants born with spina bifida stay in the Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for anywhere from two weeks to a month, supported with oxygen and other necessities, Sophia stayed for only seven days, and required no oxygen or respiratory support before coming home to her family.

Aside from early orthopedic casting to correct a club foot, all Sophia has needed are braces to help with the positioning of her legs, notes Lawall’s Emily Mattole, CO, –and the HKAFO’s (Hip-Knee-Ankle-Foot Orthotics) that provide support that allows her to stand, independent of her wheelchair.

Mattole has provided bracing for Sophia since she was an infant, and notes that over the years “Sophia has progressed beautifully! She enjoys being able to stand at school and at home, but she also gets around incredibly well with her wheelchair.”

Leyda agrees, laughing, that Sophia can navigate almost anywhere in her wheelchair, and does so as she tackles a broad array of activities and interests. These include not only her classes at the Mosser School in Allentown—where she is an eager student and especially loves music, art, and gym classes—but her extracurricular pursuits, as well.

This speedy powerhouse is highly extroverted and social, with charm that wins her many friends and has led her to enjoy participating as a cheerleader with the Miracle League.

What her mom calls a “huge personality” makes Sophia “a joy to work with!” says Mattole, and may also be evidence of early career potential, since Leyda has expressed interest in exploring modeling opportunities for Sophia. Today’s focus on diversity brings increased attention and awareness of people with disabilities, as reflected in advertising and promotional avenues, opening doorways for Sophia and her photogenic smile.

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Sophia’s dreams, Leyda reveals, also include becoming a YouTuber, and creating videos to share with others.  She’s already practicing for future opportunities by developing her skills with cosmetics, and hopes to be a makeup artist someday.

What her mother calls a miracle, blended with the strong will of a natural fighter, has helped Sophia to beat the odds from the very beginning. And her success in surmounting her own personal challenges is now enabling her to serve as a role model and mentor to others.

“She’s good with little kids,” her mother observes. “She’s so patient and you can see the love and kindness in her when she interacts with the young ones!”

Sophia attends church services at the Assembly of God in Bethlehem, where she is active in bible study and youth programs that offer her the opportunity to mentor and guide smaller children in arts and crafts from a Christian perspective—and to learn future skills like cooking as she grows.

“It’s like the Girl Scouts—but these projects and goals serve the Lord,” Leyda explains.

Dark-eyed, dimpled, and pretty, Sophia is nevertheless far from fragile!  She enjoys bowling and swimming, in addition to going to the movies, spending time with her girlfriends, and practicing her cosmetic artistry.

Family time is spent with her mom, dad, grandparents and beloved older sister Andrea.– but she especially enjoys visits to and from another sister who lives in Puerto Rico.

Leyda recalls that when she and Sophia moved from Hatfield to Allentown in 2015, the distance to reach Sophia’s orthotist in Philadelphia became a problem; so they located an orthotic provider closer to them. Unfortunately, the frequent return visits that Sophia’s adjustments required were lengthy and inconvenient.

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“Measurements and casting took from two to four hours every week,” she explains, “especially to make repeated adjustments to her MAFO (Molded Ankle-Foot Orthosis); Sophia lost time at school and I lost time at the office. I talked about it one day to the physical therapist at the spina bifida clinic. She told me about Lawall’s, and I asked her to make an appointment for Sophia immediately, there at Lawall’s Allentown office.

“We started with Emily (Mattole), and this is where we’ll stay! We really love her!” Leyda exclaims. “Sophia has a wonderful connection with her, and Emily fits her HKAFOs and MAFOs just the way Sophia needs them each time; I don’t have to go back every week for re-adjustments, now that Emily does them so perfectly!

“She’s always trying to find ways they can help us during the appointment,” Leyda adds. “And she’s always able to help us out if we need something at other times, too! She’s amazing!”

Leyda also points to another special relationship: She and Sophia absolutely love their ‘nurse angel,’ Amarilis, from Bayada Home Health Care. “Amarilis and Sophia have a connection that is like nothing else!” says Leyda, who initially became friends with Amarilis. But over time, she explains, Amarilis became Sophia’s personal nurse, and has been with Sophia for more than six years, now.

“She is heaven sent! –and she means the world to Sophia and our family!” Leyda exclaims gratefully.

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For other parents of children facing disability challenges, Leyda offers encouragement and urges persistence, which is essential!

“Never lose the faith!” she reminds them, as she considers a future where Sophia may just become famous—and we all might spot that sunny Sophia smile on posters, YouTube, or in magazines someday soon!