With Developmental Needs
Welcome to Excentia
Excentia provides comprehensive services that are warm, caring and respectful. Services are available from childhood through adulthood and are utilized as needed. Excentia is recognized as a center of excellence for all services offered. With this commitment to excellence, we invite you to get involved and participate as an individual, a family member, or someone looking to make a real difference as a staff member, volunteer or supporter.
Excentia's S. June Smith Center provides therapeutic and educational services for children with developmental needs.Learn More
Helping individuals achieve their highest potential through supportive social, recreational, educational and developmental activities.Learn More
Providing a secure home environment, a sense of community and the means to discover a meaningful place in society.Learn More
Our Excentia community creates a place for you to Live, Learn and Thrive.
Here you can browse articles across topics, conditions, and success stories.
Flashback to the 1950’s at a Sock-Hop. “The Stroll” is playing and you grab your dance partner and line up across from them as the music fills your ears and the feeling of being part of something fills your entire being. Your eyes are greeted with smiles and you hear giggling and chatting from all around you. You are part of something wonderful, something enviable, something that tells your soul that everything is going to be alright and you are right where you are supposed to be. Two weeks ago, Excentia’s Sock-Hop event was thrown to create opportunities for increased socialization with peers for people living in the homes managed by Excentia. It was a cookout and dance, to spend time getting to know others, and to dance the day away. A chance to belong and make friends that will last a lifetime. You may have a family cookout, that you invite the people closest to you, it was like that only it was the Excentia RES family. Finding ways to connect with each other is an important piece of socialization and a first step on the path to community integration. “The Sock-Hop theme was just for fun as we love to dress up and have a great time (the Halloween being one of our biggest events and the individuals loving to go shopping and get all dressed in costume). Next year we are looking at having an event that invites family members of those we support as a way to build positive relationships with families and the company.” shared Anna Edling, Assistant Director of Residential Services. If you would like to learn more about Excentia’s Residential Services, please contact Anna Edling or June Johnston on our website. https://www.ourexcentia.org/about/#team-and-board
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The tale that brings Dr. Ed Slattery’s family to their current state of living- in one of the most amazing adaptive homes I’ve ever seen- is not an enviable one. A horrific crash with a tractor trailer changed the landscape of their lives forever. The response and actions that the family took to create an adaptive living space, is what is inspiring to those in the differently-abled community. Whatever the circumstances are that led to a loved one inhabiting a wheelchair, this environment is undoubtedly the one that we would all choose to make the situation feel like less of a burden. Knowing that a regularly designed home was not going to serve his family- an outpouring of creativity, circular thinking, and imagination blossomed just outside the metropolitan center of Baltimore. The home that Dr. Ed Slattery helped to design and appoint features a myriad of both subtle and diverse adaptations to allow his son, Matthew, to live in a space that works for him and the chair he depends on for daily living. Some of the features are specifically geared towards mobility ease for Matthew and some are to support the goal of a zero impact house. Before you reach the front door to the Slattery home, you encounter raised garden beds designed to allow Matthew to be able to comfortably reach the full planting space. The beds are built from the same hardwoods that finish the exterior of the home. Not only are they long-lasting and beautiful but also an esthetic choice that keeps the façade of the property tied to the beauty and functionality created by zero impact design. At the entrance to the home there are two uncommon features that are deeply enviable to any who regularly operate a wheelchair. The inlaid “walk-off” carpeting feature that is located at both the exterior and the interior walkway at the front door allows for the benefits of a doormat without the hassles of a traditional rug that would bunch and shift as wheels run across the surface. The exterior features a trough beneath that can be cleaned and the carpet area replaced as needed. At all of the entrances to the home there are electronic buttons that open the door to allow for passage unencumbered by heavy doors. Once inside the home, which is oriented to best take advantage of the sun’s warming rays, you are further comforted by the radiant floor heat throughout the living space. Railings in the corridors allow for stability if Matthew is venturing, sans chair, down any of the hallways. When the home was built, the family was not sure what level of recovery he may achieve and what features would prove most important to his ultimate mobility. Pocket doors and sliding barn doors equip each doorway- allowing for ease of movement thru hallways and entrances to rooms. The interior rooms that Matthew frequents are also equipped with electronic buttons that open and close the pocket doors. Another feature that has served the family well is the enlarged kick-plates that run the length of the hallways and the interiors of the rooms. At 12 inches high, this feature keeps the wheelchair from unintentionally gouging the walls. In every room there are cupboards that feature a cantilevered style which allows Matthew to roll in close enough to access the interiors completely. This style of hanging cabinetry is found in the living room, kitchen, bathrooms, and Matthew’s bedroom. The kitchen is designed to allow for Matthew’s full access to all of the appliances. There is a sink that is cantilevered replete with touch controls, a vertically adjustable cook-top fitted with a pot-filler, as well as a microwave oven situated below the oven for ease of reach. The microwave also opens up/down rather than side-to-side which creates an intermediate landing for handling hot vessels. The one kitchen appliance that does not live up to Slattery’s standards is the refrigerator. The interior cavity, of all of the coolers they researched, is too deep to allow for access to anything but items in the very front of the shelves or on the doors. Dr. Ed Slattery works with local “hackers” to create better solutions to the difficulties of daily living for those who are wheelchair bound. We fully expect one of his protégés to hack the refrigerator conundrum in the future. Half of the roof-scape of the Slattery home is planted with herbs that can be harvested easily from the pathway or by walking through the plantings. The pathway leads to the observation tower which overlooks the back of the property, including fruit trees and gardens, and ultimately the skyline of Towson. The interior of the three-story tower holds a unique chair lift that allows Matthew to use counter weights to pull himself, while seated, from the first story to the third. It is a fully unique feature that demonstrates the delight the Slattery family finds in living within their environment. Everything about this residence is unique and it reflects the care and thoughtful nature that Dr. Slattery bestows upon his entire family and community.
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Airplanes are something that Thad Schmidt is very familiar with. The 55-year-old Edinboro Circle resident has flown in several airplanes throughout his life. His late father was a smoke jumper in the 1940’s, parachuting onto forest fires in the Montana Rockies, and used to get his friends to give Thad rides. “Dad was always interested in airplanes,” said Thad’s sister, Joyce Wenger, who has memories of going to the airport with Thad as kids and watching the airplanes take off. Schmidt sits on the couch, leafing through a Toy Story coloring book. He may be nonverbal, but there’s something in his facial expressions that seem to convey a conversation without saying a word. That’s how Wenger knew her brother was having the time of his life when they recently chartered a plane from Lancaster Airport. “He was happy. I know he really enjoyed it,” she said. “He will often fall asleep while he’s riding in a car, but he stayed awake on the plane. He was definitely engaged.” Gregg Williams, program supervisor for Edinboro Circle, arranged for Thad to take the private plane ride. While he wasn’t sure how Thad was going to react to it, he knew his love of planes was strong enough that he would enjoy it. “We get close to the airport and he perks up,” Williams said. “He had a blast (flying).” Schmidt and Wenger flew over Biglerville in Adams County, where they grew up. They got to see the house they used to live in, and fly over apple orchards, Wenger said. Schmidt has been living in an Excentia group home for about a year. Now that he is in Lancaster, Wenger said she gets to see him more often. While they didn’t have much interaction when she was a young adult, her little brother has always held a special place in her heart and she makes a point to see him about once a week. She said they like to go on walks together and pet all the neighbors’ animals. “Since he’s moved, it’s been wonderful to visit just with him,” Wenger said, adding that in the past she would visit her brother and her parents at the same time. Schmidt lived with his parents until about three years ago – his father was 92 and his mother was 86 when he moved out. Wenger takes her mother, who is now 88 years old, to visit Thad weekly. Getting up in the airplane was like stepping back in time, Wenger said. Thad seemed to remember all those previous experiences of flying. “He went right up to the airplane and got right up in it,” she said. “He was never scared. He always enjoyed it. He sure knew what he was doing.”
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Paula Brocious loves horses. Calming, relaxing, and providing a sense of peace and quiet are all things that her horse, Neptune, provides her. “(It’s) the best part of my week,” she said, her face lighting up with an infectious smile. Paula has been taking horse riding lessons every Monday for the past 20 years. She is one of Excentia’s many riders at Greystone Manor Therapeutic Riding Center in Lancaster. Horseback riding provides numerous benefits to the rider, including cognitive, social and physical benefits, said Heather Mitterer, community outreach coordinator at Greystone. Learning cause and effect through experiencing how the horse reacts when the rider shifts his weight, or forming an emotional bond with the horse are some of the benefits that riding provides. The horses also allow the riders to build confidence in themselves. One example is someone with an attention disorder, Mitterer said. The act of riding a horse helps them develop and keep focus. “They start to understand outside of themselves because there’s a horse that reacts and responds to everything they do,” she said. Greystone Manor has been operating since 1981 and serves individuals with a documented disability. The non-profit houses 11 horses, all free-leased, and provides indoor and outdoor lessons, Mitterer said. The horses experience a thorough training period to ensure they are ready for riders, she added. “Our instructors work hand-in-hand with each horse. They’ll try to spook it – everything they can to prepare the horse. We want a horse who’s not going to panic over every single thing.” When Greystone is no longer able to use the horse, they give it back to its owner, Mitterer said. The stable does not utilize therapists with the riders – volunteers and instructors with special training and certifications in equine assisted activities help guide the rider so that they can eventually ride the horse themselves. “It’s the horses that are doing the therapy,” Mitterer said. Greystone also offers unmounted clinics, where clients focus on getting to know the horse, learn about safety, and how to care for and groom the horse before they ever mount it. Karen Weber-Zug, who has been an instructor at Greystone for five years, has some amazing stories about how the horses have helped the riders. One rider, she remembers, had trouble with facial expressions and exhibited a flat affect. After taking lessons at the stable for several years, the 16-year-old now gives verbal responses. “I’ll never forget the day I asked him if he wanted to go outside and he smiled,” she said. With another client on the autism spectrum, instructors used the horse to teach the child how to accept change and be more flexible in his daily schedule, Weber-Zug said. Riding horses is also a great benefit for those who cannot walk because the movement of the horse simulates the feeling of walking, Mitterer said. “That’s an amazing feeling to know what that feels like,” she said. “You are controlling the horse.” The specific benefits each rider receives depend on the individual person, Mitterer said. Riders at Greystone range in age from 5 to 66. At 46, Brocious has achieved the ability to ride Neptune independently. She prefers to ride Neptune outside, if possible, but sometimes rain forces them indoors. When that happens, Brocious said Neptune gets scared, but she reassures him that it’s ok. “I tell him not to be afraid,” she said. Amanda Witmer, direct support staff at Excentia, said she likes to watch Brocious ride and see the relationship she has developed with Neptune. “She’s very affectionate with the horses. She always has to say goodbye to them,” Witmer said. In fact, Brocious has her own special way of saying goodbye to the horses. Before she dismounts, she guides the horse in a “moonwalk” of walking backwards. Brocious proudly states that she taught the horse how to do that. “She just loves it. She talks about (riding) all the time,” Witmer said.
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