Empowering People

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.

Here's How We Serve Our Community

Early Childhood

Excentia's S. June Smith Center provides therapeutic and educational services for children with developmental needs.

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Life Enrichment

Helping people achieve their highest potential through supportive social, recreational, educational, and developmental activities.

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Residential

Providing a secure home environment, a sense of community and the means to discover a meaningful place in society.

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Community Matters

Our Excentia community creates a place for you to Live, Learn and Thrive.
Here you can browse articles across topics, conditions, and success stories.

Sensory Play

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Thrive

Sensory processing is getting a lot of attention in the world of child development. Much of the public knowledge centers on children who are overly sensitive to sensations like noise, touch, and movement which may cause a child to respond in an aggressive or withdrawn manner. Sensory-sensitive activities are springing up in lots of locations, including Lancaster. Excentia has consulted with the Lancaster Science Factory and the Barnstormers for their sensory-friendly events. These events are much more comfortable for children who are easily stimulated.   But did you know that other types of sensory processing difficulties? In the first example, the children are too aware of sensation. However, there are also children who do not register sensation like their peers; they crave more input. They may respond to this need by being overly active and seeking sensation, or they may appear disinterested and unmotivated.   We all have tendencies based on our individual processing styles (fun fact – nothing gets into the brain except by way of our various sensory systems, and there are more than the 5 senses we commonly hear about). Personally, the tactile/touch system dictates some of my life. For example, I have a hard time getting work done if I am wearing long sleeves. Unusual, I know!   The first three years of life are referred to as the Sensory-Motor Period. Children experiences lots of new adventures and their brain is organizing sensation in a functional way. They learn one of the most important skills for the future: self-regulation. Self-regulation is seen in our ability to calm down at the end of the day, pay attention to tasks, and other vital activities. Lack of self-regulation can lead to issues with sleep and behavior.   Childhood play is a major regulator of sensory stimulation. Children seem to have a natural sense of what their bodies need, just as they know when they are thirsty or hungry. The subsequent years of child development build on that foundation. Children need access to play that has them moving, processing, and problem-solving.   TimberNook creates child-led play with lots of opportunity to engage all of our senses. The sensory benefits of TimberNook have been demonstrated in a University of New Hampshire Occupational Therapy Research Study (2016). The results of the study “suggest that the quality of social interaction among the children did collectively differ between TimberNook and the children’s typical play environment. The environments were specifically different in their supportiveness regarding the objects available, the amount of space and configuration of that space, and sensory opportunities. We concluded that environments offering greater opportunities of objects, space, and sensory exploration, such as TimberNook, appear to support better quality of social interaction.​"   Are you interested in learning more? A portion of our TimberNook Information Session on January 22nd will be aimed at teaching attendees more about the developmental foundations of sensory processing. Sign up here.

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Communication Through Music

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When music casts is magical spell on us, it can impact our feelings, make us have fun, trigger memories, and it can facilitate language development. The power of music is well-documented and well understood by those who have experienced it.   In my experience as a speech language pathologist, I have seen the positive impacts of music in all aspects of my career. From infancy to elderly, music is powerful.  I have further proof of this having been privileged to work in one of the S June Smith Center of Excentia’s preschool classrooms. We have the great honor of working with Certified Music Therapist, Katie Eshelman, over the past few years.  And because of the obvious benefits of music, I implement it in my therapy and coaching with families daily.  Below I will share a few ideas for how music can be used to support communication development.   1. Fun: One reason why music works for learning, is because it’s fun. There are affordable resources available such as youtube.com or Pandora Radio.  You can have fun with your child by watching videos on youtube.com or listening to music together. This removes you from the demand of teaching your child, and enables you to create fun, silly, dancing, sound-making memories with your little one… who will most likely learn to request or remember parts of the song because they will have so much fun doing the activity with you. Pandora Stations to create for children: Raffi, Toddler, Family Road Trip. Youtube videos to watch together: Laurie Berkner Band, The Wiggles, Barney songs, movie clips from a favorite movie (I have watched the Frozen song video for “Let it Go” with many families!), or any band or song your child seems to like.   2. Repetition: Repetition facilitates learning, and repetition is much more fun in the context of song! Use song to repeat ideas and build vocabulary. Sing the same sound or word repeatedly to the tune of a familiar song. (i.e. To the Tune of B-I-N-G-O sing- “Sarah puts her jacket on, she puts her jacket on, jacket on on on, jacket on on on, jacket on on on and now her jacket’s on!”) Sing repetitive songs (Old McDonald, 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, etc). Make a song up using 1 or 2 words to whatever tune you want!   3. Gestures: Pairing movements with song/sound can often help facilitate sounds more easily, make the use of sounds more fun, and increase the child’s attention to the words/sounds. Use of gestures is also helpful for children already using or learning sign language. Singing songs that incorporate gestures is a great way to develop these skills. Songs that are easily paired with gestures include: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Head Shoulders Knees Toes, Wheels on the Bus.   4. During routines: Singing about what we are doing throughout the day makes learning the narratives and vocabulary of our routines more exciting. Any routine can be made into a song. Bed time, bath time, waking up, potty, washing hands, etc. (Again, use words to the tune of a familiar song, or make a song up!)   5. Sentence Completion: You can help your child increase their independent ability to produce words and sounds by using a “sentence completion” approach with repetitive songs.  The steps for using this approach are as follows: Sing a familiar and enjoyable song with your little one enough times that you become confident that they have learned it. Continue to sing the song with them, but begin to implement an occasional pause at a familiar part that you know your child likes. (I.e. “The Itsy Bitsy Spider went up the water spout, down came the rain and washed the spider __pause___”) Look at the child with an expectant, excited face… and wait. If they do not respond, you can model the correct word “OUT” with over emphasis and exaggeration. And try again. Eventually, your child may learn to complete the sentence on their own!   Hopefully, you will find some of these ideas helpful and maybe even find that you will also have fun in the process of using music to help children with communication development!

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Let the Children Play

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As a pediatric occupational therapist with many years of learning in both formal and informal ways about early child development, I have developed some personal “guiding rules:" A child’s relationship to his/her mommy/daddy/loving adult is primary. Our role with an infant is to nurture and protect. Easy. The not-so-easy role is the gradual changes that should occur during childhood where parents step back and allow the child to learn from their own experiences. Allowing a child to take a risk; difficult. A child’s relationship to “Mother Nature” is a key component of development. For babies, this refers to gravity. As a society we have “over-containered” babies: infant seats, strollers, swings. Babies need to move and maximize the time they are playing on the floor. Children, too, need to move. Run. Climb. Roll down a hill. The evidence is in and it indicates that these activities promote far more than physical development. The architecture of the brain is established by our early experiences. We are sensory beings. Information gets into the brain by the sensory systems. Some of these are not widely recognized by everyone such as the proprioceptive system (information from our muscles and joints) and the vestibular system (information about movement and how we relate to gravity). They are vital components of our development. Play IS a child’s occupation. As an occupational therapist, I have frequently been asked how occupation relates to children. Play is the answer. Not all play is created equally. We must choose those opportunities that allow children to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills while having fun. We want to stimulate their imagination and creativity. Knowing the above, it will not be surprising that I was very excited to learn about TimberNook. It knows, understands and supports my “guiding rules." Tagged as the Ultimate Sensory Experience, TimberNook is both a philosophy and curriculum. Set in the outdoors, Mother Nature is used as a “third teacher” to provide an environment where children can have authentic play experiences. With multiple options for programming, TimberNook can serve toddlers from 18 months-4 years (Tiny Ones) in a parent-child setting, and 4-7 year olds (Little Wild Ones) and 7-12 year olds (Wild Ones) in a child-and-staff setting. Excentia is excited to announce that we are now a TimberNook provider and will be doing programming in 2019! We are working in partnership with the Lancaster County Conservancy to use Climbers Run Nature Preserve as our site. This unique location will have an area specifically planned to facilitate “play the TimberNook way” as well as the existing trails, meadows, a stream, and forested areas. Head over to our TimberNook Facebook page and click the ‘Like’ button to stay informed as we roll out the plans for next year. We will also start posting more detailed articles about subjects that support the philosophy of TimberNook of Lancaster County!

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Jack is running!

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This is a letter from one of our families, we hope that parents and who are in the earliest stages will take comfort in reading about Jack and his family.   Our son, Jack, graduated from your birth to three program through S. June Smith last October. We are writing today to let you know that our family is forever grateful.   Jack was born with spina bifida and had multiple surgeries within his first few months. He began receiving physical and occupational therapy when he was just 6 weeks old, and we eventually added speech therapy to his routine.   The team that worked with Jack the longest was Jeane’ Bowerman, PT, Erica Wentzel, OT, and Robin Williams Harnish, SLP.   We equate this team to the Dream Team! They worked together to create appropriate goals for Jack, always keeping in mind his strengths. Upon learning that Jack was diagnosed with spina bifida, we were given a grim prognosis regarding mobility - one doctor believed he would never walk. Imagine our surprise when he was able to move his legs shortly after birth. When Jeane’ began working with him at 8 months, he was just learning to sit. With her help, he was able to sit up, stand, crawl on his hands and knees, cruise, and can now walk independently throughout our home. She had new ideas every week. And thank goodness she was able to bring so many pieces of equipment; a seat, a standing bench, a ride on toy, a gait trainer, a wheelchair, a walker, and a pair of lofstrand crutches. We could have never purchased everything we needed to help Jack make these huge mobility gains. And Jeane’ forged ahead every week. When he needed surgery, we figured out a way to still push him. Jack picked the week his sister was born to begin walking. We insisted Jeane’ come and help us refine this new skill!   Erica, who had worked with Jack the longest, had the most wonderful relationship with Jack. In fact, in the three weeks after therapy has ended, he had asked for her twice. Erica provided our family with a wealth of knowledge. She helped with feeding, seating, toileting, sensory experiences, and our favorite, trips to Costco. Erica was able to problem solve EVERY question we posed (and we posed a lot of questions). Her positive feedback about the difficult situations we faced, was most appreciated. Robin was the last therapist to be added to Team Jack! In fact, we were so pleased with our progress, that we enrolled Jack in your SPLASH program for 2 sessions. Too bad he aged out because he had a fantastic time playing with the other children and developing a foundation for speech. Robin helped us with many techniques to help Jack speak. We added to our word wall in our kitchen on a regular basis to try to get Jack exposed to as many words as possible. He was one tough cookie, but Robin never gave up. If we weren’t working outside, she found a toy from our collection that would motivate Jack.   We are happy to report that Jack has made significant gains over this past year. He began attending our neighborhood preschool in September! This has been a major step for independence for Jack. His time at school is the longest he has spent away from our family, and we are all thrilled. If you had told us one year ago that this transition to preschool would have been this smooth, we never would have believed you. Jack is so eager to go to school that he gets dropped off in the car line “running” to get inside. He has been making so much progress with his mobility, that his current therapist believes he will no longer need to use his lofstrand crutches at school. This is incredible. She also has a new goal for Jack. Running. Honestly, we almost asked her to remove this goal, but he is just so ready.   All of these accomplishments, would not have been possible without the early intervention that Jack received through Excentia. We believe strongly that his success is due to the pushing and endurance of YOUR team members. Thank you for hiring and retaining the best therapists. We were honored to share our son Jack with them and consider them in the highest regard. With thanks, Matthew and Amy Link

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