Small moments like this mean the world to his mom, Amber Herring, a medical social worker at ChildServe. She has seen Apollo overcome many medical difficulties and challenges to get to this point.
Born prematurely at 26 weeks, Apollo spent three months in the NICU at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital before being placed in Amber’s foster home. He faced medical conditions like a brain bleed, vision damage, lung damage, and asthma. He would remain on oxygen for the first two years of his life and was delayed in meeting important developmental milestones, including walking, running and talking.
“When I met him, I had no idea that Apollo would eventually be my son, and we would learn so much together. I was able to adopt him in December 2019 after 918 days in foster care,” said Amber.
Amber knew Apollo would need a unique and comprehensive set of services to help him live a great life. She chose to partner with ChildServe where he could receive physical, speech and occupational therapies, as well as Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine services with Dr. Fred Klingbeil, pediatric physiatrist and medical director at ChildServe.
On top of his medical needs, Apollo received a diagnosis of autism at two years old. As he’s grown older, he’s experienced sensory challenges like being unable to tolerate certain textures, loud noises and more, and he’s struggled with changes in structure or routine.
“Once we received his autism diagnosis, his therapists were incredible at adapting his goals to better meet his needs,” said Amber. “I also enrolled Apollo in ChildServe’s Autism Day Program to provide him with more opportunities to grow and interact with peers his age.”
With support from his team at ChildServe, Apollo has learned to run, jump, climb and dance. Where he once didn’t speak, he can now use three-to-four-word sentences, engage in conversation and greet others without prompting.
“Apollo has gained exposure to his dislikes and challenging environments so he can more easily manage them,” said Amber. “He has developed in areas like pre-writing skills (drawing lines and shapes), being able to use a shape sorter and putting together puzzles. If I walk by the room during the day, I witness him having positive interactions with other peers or adults, never on his own. Apollo is a child I always thought preferred being alone, but I now feel that was inaccurate – he just needed to learn the tools necessary to engage with others.”
“I have seen Apollo grow and develop in areas that medical professionals once told me he would never achieve,” said Amber. “Apollo has taught me to never give up when fighting for something you believe in, even when you feel defeated from the beginning.”
ChildServe improves the health and well-being of 5,200 children each year through specialized clinical, home, and community-based programs and services. We serve children with developmental delays, disabilities, injuries, and other special healthcare needs.