Sophia Leonhardt, Ergotherapeutin von den Doepfer Schulen, Muenchen

Herzlichen Glückwunsch an Sophia!

23. Januar 2017 remove_red_eye 2.831 Views

2017_APOTY_SophiaSophia Leonhardt (25), an Occupational Therapist and graduate of the Doepfer Schule, Munchen was nominated by the Schueller family of Troy, Michigan for the 2017 Professional Au Pair of the Year Award. She was one of the top 3 contest winners!

Sophia spent a year caring for the Schueller family's three children - ages 9, 2 and 1. Host mom Nikki Schueller says, "Sophia spent every moment of every day making our lives better and easier. She loved our children. She kept them safe and secure. She improved Parker’s quality of life in ways I could never have imagined."

Read her family's nomination essay:

I remember waking up on Sophia’s birthday last year, after she had been with us for over eight months, and I had one thought. How lucky I had been 25 years earlier on the day she was born. Because it almost felt like - she was born to usher us through the last year of our lives.

I don’t know where to begin when I want to describe how amazing Sophia is. Her list of qualities is endless. She was patient. She was kind. She was organized, efficient, loving and funny. Oh, so funny. I can’t tell you how many memories I have of being bent over in my kitchen laughing in the middle of the day. She was smart. Smart about her time, her money, her energy and her health. She was smart when dealing with my children and the endless parade of therapist and doctors in and out of our lives. She was always cheerful - and “on.” And boy, did she have a work ethic. She could seamlessly switch between our oldest Parker, who is severely developmentally delayed, can’t talk, walk or eat because of a series of rare conditions, our spunky toddler and a brand new baby. She did all this while maintaining perfect boundaries. And did I mention she was never on her phone?

I honestly loved the sound of the door from the basement opening each day as Sophia emerged and the day took on new energy. My partner had arrived.

It was not an easy year. In the weeks before Sophia arrived, our oldest son’s health had taken a turn for the worse. We were truly afraid for him, where his disease was headed and if he would be strong enough to make it through the year. The first few weeks Sophia was here were non stop doctors appointments across several states trying to find new solutions to improve his health.

A few weeks after Sophia arrived my dad had a major stroke and three weeks later - he passed away. I was able to be with him every day until he died in large part to Sophia’s ability to immediately come into her job - learn what was necessary (without my guidance much of the time) bond with the children and do what needed to be done so I could be with my dad as much as possible.

Because of Sophia’s partnership in implementing the new health plan, attention to detail, and keen ability to observe Parker -his health started to improve. She continued to shuffle around from doctors appointment, to therapy to hospital test to try to help our son. In the meantime she was also working with him daily - on her own goals. Under her care our son learned to pick up and drink from a cup, hold and feed himself with a spoon and toilet. He improved in every area  - he was standing more, walking more, using his speaking device with greater accuracy.

Our son has severe sensory processing issues - something Sophia had a little training in - but not much. But she was passionate about learning. She sat through every OT session - watched. learned and implemented the techniques. She read a sensory processing book, and then another and another. She was always, and I mean always thinking about how to improve Parker’s quality of life.

Slowly, he was starting to feel better. He was having more good days then bad. My beautiful, bright, full of light son had started to reemerge. He began to thrive again.

I suddenly realized - we all were thriving again. And I haven’t even mentioned our toddler loved her. Really loved her. He, who wasn’t talking when Sophia arrived, now spent all day trying to figure out where his “fia” was.

It was all good timing how well this was going- since I was about to give birth to our third child.

The next few months were a blur of three under two (our oldest is 9 - but cognitively two) - three non-sleepers, three in diapers - the two year old was the most independent child we had. We attempted to move to Florida for a month so we could all get outside (escape the Northern winter)- the kids could play and our oldest - who loved the water - could swim.

A week after we arrived - all three kids got RSV. We spent the next three weeks taking care of three very sick kids, cleaning and doing laundry. That was it. We were in Florida for a month and made it to the beach one time for a walk. One time. Sophia took it all in stride - helping with every task necessary. She never complained - and she never missed a beat. She even watched all  the children a few times so my husband and I could go out for a quick respite breakfast.  It was finally time to go home - we could not wait. On the way to the airport we got a flat tire- missed our flight - caught another flight and finally arrived home. Five hours later - our toddler came down with the stomach flu - that would quickly spread through the house - including Sophia. Our oldest ended up very seriously ill and in the hospital for a week. Sophia - who insisted on only taking one day off - did everything necessary to help us through this time. She cooked. She cleaned. She watched the two smaller children. She stayed with Parker in the hospital. She supported us - always staying “Sophia cool” and upbeat.

Somehow we emerged from this time in one piece - mostly because of Sophia’s support and positive attitude.We had earned our stripes as a family  - and it felt now that Sophia was woven deeply into our family story.

Because she was. She has been there in death, in new life in sickness - in silly and crazy and hard and overwhelming and hilarious. We were all better because of her.

During her last months in our home - there was a perfect rhythm, a calm energy. We had fun. We got so much accomplished. My husband and I went on dates. We went away for a night. And mostly - for the first time in 9 years - we trusted someone with our dear Parker (and a toddler and a baby). I got a break. A real break. In 9 years - I had not had a real break.

Sophia spent every moment of every day making our lives better and easier. She loved our children. She kept them safe and secure. She improved Parker’s quality of life in ways I could never have imagined. She made sure the toddler did not drink too many juice boxes and played sports, star wars and a million other things with him daily. By time she left, she was the only one who could bounce the baby to sleep. She could handle watching all three kids. She somehow also found time to reorganized our entire house and was always one step ahead of me each day.

If she had a jersey - we’d retire it. Sophia deserves to be au pair of the year because this is what I wrote in each card to her at the end of every month. “We couldn’t have dreamed her better.”

Submitted by the Schueller Family of Troy, Michigan

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