University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

Iowa Family Story Project

One in five of Iowa's children and youth has a special health care need - a chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional condition that requires more than routine health care.

The Iowa Family Story Project illustrates the daily joys and struggles of caring for children, youth, and young adults with special health care needs or disabilities. Photographer Thomas Langdon shadowed eight of these Iowa families.

They reflect Iowa's diversity and include those living on rural farms, in small towns, and in bustling cities. The children, youth, and young adults range in age from one year to 28 years and have a wide range of diagnoses, including autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, and genetic conditions. 

Although the families are different in many ways, they share a set of common experiences. They must navigate a complex and fragmented system of care, endless piles of paperwork, financial stress, and sometimes long drives for appointments that are booked months in advance. But they also share a deep, unconditional love for each other and feelings of joy and accomplishment when overcoming obstacles.