Helping Emery Blossom

Four-year-old Emery has a charming personality with a love for trampolines, skipping and dum-dum lollipops. Nonetheless, her family was struggling to communicate with her as she grew. They began noticing some delays in her development when she was 2, and six months later, was diagnosed with autism at the Center for Disabilities and Development at the University of Iowa.

“Emery is nonverbal so we were struggling to understand the world from her point of view,” said Michelle, Emery’s mom. “Imagine what it would be like if you were sick, frustrated or sad and you couldn’t explain how you felt.”

To help Emery connect with the world around her and build skills to live a great life, her family enrolled her in ChildServe’s Autism Day Program at the age of 3. In this specialized weekday program, Emery receives evidence-based treatments focused on her goals, as well as occupational, physical and speech therapies throughout the week.

“When Emery’s family reached out to us, we knew that we could help,” said Monica Goodvin, Community Services Supervisor. “We want to give families a safe, compassionate environment for their child to succeed. We nurture each child’s individuality and try to cherish the uniqueness they add to each classroom while helping them grow and learn. Emery is in constant motion, so many of the activities we do with her build on her strength to move, move, move.”

“Emery’s outlook on life is amazing. She’s always happy and optimistic. She sees no hatred or anger. She bravely faces her fears. If we could all see the world more through her eyes, I think we would be a lot happier.”

– Michelle, Emery’s Mom

After just six months at ChildServe, Emery’s communication has begun to blossom. Her team introduced the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), which enables Emery to use cards with pictures, symbols or words to communicate many feelings, wants and needs that were once trapped inside.

“Emery’s team at ChildServe has displayed so much patience, understanding and persistence in working to find ways for her to communicate successfully,” said Michelle. “They have taken time to teach us how to work with the PECS, answer our questions and show us how to incorporate it in daily life. Communication is key to building a great life so we are thankful for her ChildServe team.”

Emery’s progress is just beginning. Soon, she will add a new service to her weekly schedule, called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Thanks to our generous donors, ChildServe was able to expand ABA into Iowa City in late 2021 after seeing tremendous success in Johnston and Ames.

ABA is a science that seeks to understand how learning occurs. ChildServe ABA identifies the best approach to teach children with autism new skills like communicating, engaging with others, learning independently, and other skills that help them be successful at home, school or in the community.

“We’re really looking forward to having Emery start ABA,” said Michelle. “She will receive full-time, one-on-one teaching so she can continue to develop her skills.”

ChildServe is unique because children in the Autism Day Program can receive ABA along with speech, occupational and physical therapies all in the same day. This allows parents to work, care for their other children and maintain their schedules while their child receives the care they need.

“I often hear from parents, what makes ChildServe so special is their children can receive all of the services they need under one roof,” said Jenny Stevens, BCBA, ABA Clinical Lead. “Parents are ecstatic about that. Having ABA and outpatient therapy in the same building contributes to the all-around progress that a child will make. I’m able to collaborate with families and therapists on their goals and ensure our care plans will help each child maximize their progress.”

“I can’t say enough positive things about ChildServe, and I don’t know what we would do without it,” said Michelle. “We’re so grateful to have a place we can take Emery and know that she’s happy, learning and being treated with respect.”


ChildServe improves the health and well-being of nearly 5,800 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.

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