University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

The Metzler Family

Teen talking to younger brother
"We're still in touch with our son's birth parents. The more people to love him, the better."

Lisa and Dan Metzler have two adopted children with special needs: Armando, age 16, and Tristan, age 9, both of whom cam to the Metzler family as foster children. They also have three adult children including a son in college. When Armando was 21 months, his birth mother sent the Metzlers a long letter asking them to adopt him. "At that time we were so naive," said Lisa. "We knew he had complications from prematurity, but we thought he would outgrow those." Armando was premature, weighing only 1 pound, 2 ounces at birth. He has a moderate intellectual disability and was diagnosed with moderate autism four years ago. Tristan suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was 10 weeks olds, resulting in cerebral palsy, cortical visual impairment, seizure disorder, and spastic quadriplegia. While Tristan was in foster care with the Metzlers, they were asked again to consider adoption. "That decision was harder," said Lisa, "because we already had a special needs child.

Armando attends Prairie High School, is part of the Prairie Hawks marching band, and is doing great. He has participated in Special Olympics, attended Camp Courageous, and is involved in the Best Buddies program. "The school district is awesome," said Lisa. "The teachers go above and beyond." Armando is learning cooking skills, attending an autism social skills group, and works with a respite provider on supported community living skills. Tristan is in a wheelchair and is dependent on others to move him around. He also uses apnea, heart rate, and oxygen saturation monitors at night. He attends Prairie Ridge Elementary School and is learning to ride a specially adapted bike, which is helping to develop his strength and coordination. 

Both boys are on the Home and Community Based Services Waviers, but the family still struggles to get all the adaptive equipment they need. "Tristan could benefit from a device called a Light Aide," said Lisa. "This has been show to help children with cortical visual impairment rewire the brain to enable them to see." Lisa hopes that in the future, Armando will be able to live in a supervised setting and work in a job he enjoys. "My older children gave up a lot growing up," said Lisa. "But now, as adults, I think they all feel good about their experience of having been a foster family and seeing what others go through."

Teen boy cooking
Family sitting on front porchYoung man holding brother in back yard