Homeward Bound with a Flexible Skillset:
Katie's Treasure House Story

For some young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs), Treasure House is a forever home. For others, like Katie Dwyer, life at our supported living residence is a critical step towards flourishing independently in a future preferred setting. Treasure House is thrilled to celebrate that Katie’s dedication to personal growth during her four-year Treasure House residency has paved the way for her to confidently transition back to a vibrant life in the Midwest!

Katie, a 26-year-old woman with Autism from Iowa, began life at Treasure House in February 2020. She shared the same deep motivation for a fulfilling life as any new resident. Her unique challenges and the world’s unprecedented circumstances naturally made her feel uncertain in new territory. She craved a fresh start and bright future while also desiring an expedited return to the comfort of her family and four beloved cats.

Our two-tiered approach of dedicated Life Coaches and Community Assistants reminded Katie that the fastest way to reach her goal would be through experiences and obstacles, not around them. In this loving place of learning and development, we lean on each other to persevere until we thrive with our abilities.

The Dwyer Family

Flexibility is the Key to Katie's Independence

Katie is a talented artist who knows her sports, would do anything for animals, and enjoys copious amounts of parmesan. Like many with Autism, she also values rigidity, consistency, and routine. Katie came to Treasure House struggling with cognitive flexibility – the ability to shift to different thoughts, strategies, and actions depending on situational demands. 

“For Katie to get through a day, a hundred things have to go right,” said Greg Dwyer, Katie’s father. “When she came to Treasure House, about ten were going right, and she did not know how to make the other 90 work. Treasure House was what our family needed at the exact time we needed it.”

Each day at Treasure House, Katie acquired tools for handling emotions, embracing change, and accepting things beyond her control. She learned that advocating for herself would support the ideal outcomes she envisioned – that planning, preparing, and communicating could reduce her feelings of anxiety. Recognizing flexibility as a crucial skill to have while transitioning into adulthood, Katie diligently worked towards it and other goals.

Katie and her Life Coach, Brittney Kozeliski, developed a customized growth plan that heavily relied on goal visualization through habit tracking. With a printed goal sheet hung in her apartment, Katie started each day knowing what she wanted to accomplish, and dedicated time each evening to evaluating her progress. 

Katie creates art in the Treasure House dining room.

Some of Katie’s goals included being calm, flexible, exercising, saving money, and consuming protein. Accomplishments were recognized in green, and areas needing improvement were acknowledged in red. Katie was highly motivated by an emerald-shaded habit tracker! It proved, visually, that she was making significant progress towards being able to thrive independently back home. During moments that tested her, Katie found that breathing techniques and sensory tools positively helped.

“Treasure House has given Katie the skills and the confidence to make things go right every day,” Greg said. “And more important is that when they do not go right, she has the tools to fix them.”

Katie plays the leading role of Alex, the lion.

Outside of Treasure House, Katie thrived in the community. Treasure House’s Life Skills & Job Training program supported her in landing jobs at Popeyes, Spencer’s Place, and Sierra Winds Retirement Home, where she enjoyed serving dinner to the elderly population and visiting with residents. Gainful employment allowed Katie to exceed the goal of saving $10,000 for her transition home.

In addition, Katie found belonging in a local theater community. She took on the leading role of Alex the lion in ‘Madagascar: a Musical Adventure’ by Imagine Theater Company, and she played supporting roles in many other productions.

Beyond Treasure House, Katie's Future is Bright

At Celebrity Game Night 2023, Katie proudly announced to a crowd of 600 that she is a success story, and that she planned to depart Treasure House on October 31st. “Thank you to my life coach,” she said. “She has always been there for me. Thank you to all of the residents who have treated me like family. You have helped me be a better person and live independently.”

In 2024, Katie’s family will break ground on a multi-use property in a historic Iowa town on the shore of the Mississippi. Built with the Treasure House approach in mind, the second story will feature condominiums for Katie and an IDD neighbor, with nearby support and assistance available. The ground floor will be leased for business. A perfect place to display her artwork, Katie dreams of owning a cat café that employs young adults with IDDs while serving as a haven for unadoptable cats.

Greg, Tree, & Katie Dwyer speak at Celebrity Game Night

As they enter this exciting next stage with Katie, the Dwyers are equipped with the vision for how to continue supporting her. At an exit meeting, Treasure House delivered customizable tools for implementing their family’s ongoing support of Katie’s sense of independence, inclusion, and purpose.

Brittney says that her greatest wish for Katie is that she continues to just be herself. “Katie does not have to change to fit the environment. We can adapt to meet her where she’s at. Our world can change so that people like her can share their worth and abilities. I know she will continue to achieve so much for herself because she truly believes she can.”

The entire Treasure House family agrees that the Dwyer family will always have a home in us, and we look forward to sharing updates about Katie’s life beyond Treasure House!

Every contribution helps Treasure House continue solving the unique challenges that young adults with IDDs, and their families, face.