PRACTICE PROM: Teen Plans Dance As Therapy

Prom is a big night many teens anxiously await. But, one senior from a small town in northern Iowa wasn’t sure she’d get the chance to go to her school’s big dance. She found a way to get ready for the night, despite her life being turned upside down just a few months ago.

The hair, the make up, the dress: one teen says, “It’s the dress that matters most.” You also have photo ops, lots and lots of photo ops.

But, late February is a little early for all the glitz and glamor of prom. Then again, this isn’t your typical dance. This prom is at On With Life, a brain injury rehabilitation center in Ankeny.

Mom Angie Kiefer says, “You just think that magic switch is going to go back on, and there she is, but it’s not the way it is.”

Southeast Webster Grand Senior Emma Kiefer was coming home from a babysitting job early the morning of October 27th. She says, “My car was t-boned. And the guy that hit it, my brain swelled like really far. And they took a piece of my skull out so no more of my brain would get damaged with the swelling.”

Emma spent weeks at Blank Children’s Hospital. She says, “Hearing the stories about me being in a medicated coma and stuff. And, them telling my mom and dad I’m going to end up dying.”

Emma came to On With Life in early December. She couldn’t walk, talk or even eat. She says, “I don’t really remember it, but it was probably hard for me.”

With intense therapy, hard work and determination, Emma progressed quicker than anyone expected. She started talking about that big night in early spring 17-year-olds dream of.

On With Life Speech Language Pathologist Megan Ihrke says, “We talked about it for a little bit and decided as a team we could put together a prom here as kind of a practice run for her.”

The prom isn’t just for fun. The lights, dancing, and decorations are all part of Emma’s therapy. Ihrke says, “One thing we know about brain injury is people tend to get overwhelmed easily, or overstimulated. And, prom, with all the bright lights and noise and people is just perfect situation for that to happen.”

Ihrke helped Emma plan the decorations. The music therapist worked with her on the playlist. And, the physical therapist fine-tuned Emma’s dance moves. Emma jokes of one of her dances, “It’s the Bernie, but they call it the Emma since I do it.”

Emma invited her family and friends along with persons served from On With Life. Friend Macy Devries says, “It’s so awesome that Emma came and planned almost all of this, just how far she’s come is amazing.”

It’s a big step for this prom princess. Her mom says, “We’re very happy with how she’s come out and the hard work she’s put into this.”

Emma is about to graduate from On With Life and get back to hers. She says, “Just being back to the person I was before, just like amazes me.”

But, not before practicing a big night she wouldn’t want to miss. She says, “It was really fun.”

Emma graduates from On With Life this Friday. Her real prom is April 5th. Then, she graduates from high school. She plans to go to college and one day work with the hearing impaired.



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