Russell Landry loves the morning news.
Specifically, the 6-year-old Allemands Elementary student has a daily routine of watching WWL Eyewitness News with his family, something that began when he was just two. Landry has had some developmental delays and the daily newscast was something that grabbed his attention early in his life, and from that broadcast he’s learned so much – often finding examples of how to speak and say certain words by repeating what the newscasters say.
“He kind of became obsessed with the news at 2-years old,” said Landry’s mother Melanie. “We started early intervention and therapy at probably 15 to 18 months old, and we kept hearing that anything that grabs their attention, try to use that as a learning tool. And he does that – he constantly repeats what the newspeople would say. So, that became something we’d always do together, watch the news.”
That expanded into his schoolwork, as Melanie said when Landry goes to write for his schoolwork, he’d sign it “for WWL” or “for Eyewitness.” And he would use laminated cards of the TV station’s personalities as an association tool to draw his interest for different lessons.
As one might expect: he was over the moon.
“My mother-in-law would send them pictures of things he’d done and they even put it on TV a few times,” Melanie said. “Then (WWL anchor) Leslie Spoon reached out and said hey, we love Russell, and we think this is so great, we’d like to invite him to the station to meet us and look around. And he was so excited. We went there and he was starstruck. He kept saying, ‘Oh, wow! Whoa!’ He got to interact with the morning cast, see what the green screen was, play with the teleprompter and all the different gadgets. It was an amazing day – every single person there was just wonderful.”
Even better – for as much as the regular newscast had helped him along in his development, the visit there seems to have supercharged it in some ways.
Melanie said the family made a picture book from his photos at the studio and he was able to bring that to school – he was so proud of it and wanted to show it to everyone and anyone. She said the experience seems to really be bringing her son out of his shell.
“He wants to share his excitement for it with everyone,” she said. “(At first) with him going to school, he kind of kept to himself. We weren’t sure how he was going to do (socially) this school year … if someone talked to him, he’d talk, but he wasn’t going out of his way.
“But now, he’ll reach out and say ‘Hey, come see! Look at this, look how cool! It’s just really helped him come out of his shell. He’s talking to so many people, asking so many questions and we weren’t sure when he’d get to this point, so it’s been really amazing.”
Landry just celebrated his 6th birthday – of course, with a WWL-themed party, with cake, banner and balloons all on brand for it.
Sometimes, Russell’s fandom necessitates some tweaks have to be made to the daily routine.
“I had to change Leslie Spoon’s (contact) name in my phone because he kept wanting to call her every single day,” Melanie said with a laugh.
But it’s all been a big lift for him.
Melanie said that while his TV studio experience has indeed been a special milestone and big help, much credit for Landry getting to this point goes to so many around him – his speech and occupational therapists as well as his teachers and the faculty at Allemands have been critical in him making strides.
She said that she can attest to the value of early intervention when encountering developmental delays.
“It really is the key,” she said. “If you see any inkling of it in your child, I can’t stress that enough. I absolutely believe we are where we are today with him because we sought that help.”