My first impression of Emily Langdon occurred at the worst possible time – kindergarten screening. Henry was enduring an epic meltdown. Tears streamed down my face as I attempted to calm him, to assure him he was safe, but days later I would look back at that moment with a grateful heart.
Emily handled our first meeting with quiet composure and grace I’ve only seen from the most skilled occupational therapists. She spoke few words, in hushed tones layered with kindness and understanding. I wondered Who is this genius angel? Once Henry calmed enough to complete the tasks, she praised him for being the first child who could answer all the questions and volunteer to count by 3s. He grinned a little. If I could have squeezed her, I would have!
Arriving home, I quickly looked up the school website to see if she could be his kindergarten teacher. Alas, she was listed as a second grade teacher. When the phone rang the next day and the school number appeared, my hands trembled in anticipation. Who would the teacher be? Would we like her?
“Hello?” I answered, the silent question hanging in the air.
And then I heard her voice. Imagine my knee-buckling relief. Emily had moved to kindergarten, and Henry was in her class. Tears filled my eyes as I cried, “You don’t know how excited I am!”
Emily fulfilled my expectations for the entire year. She saw Henry. Not autism, not disability, not impossibilities. She saw his love for trains and met it with creativity. She saw his potential and raised the bar. She lovingly guided him to write stories, not just “Henry” or “train” on every project.
Did she love Henry? Yes. Did she let him get away with murder? Never. He was expected to meet her classroom standards and abide by the rules. If he yelled out during circle time or smarted off to a friend, he was held accountable.
Yet, she was keenly aware of when he should not be pushed. (Are you starting to think she’s a miracle worker? Because I am convinced of it.) She innately handled his challenges with a serenity and wisdom I pray for. I watched her handle each of his classmates the same way, regardless of their backgrounds, abilities, or personalities.
I prayed for months for the right teacher for Henry. We got her. The first meltdown was exactly what I didn’t know I needed – a window into the soul of a woman who would shape both Henry’s academic life and my heart.
Friday Focus is a series to celebrate the folks who make life extraordinary for people with special needs. Know someone we should honor? Feel free to send me a message. MeredithMD(at)gmail(dot)com