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.
Carl Spangler flashes a shy smile as he sits in the press room at the Lancaster Barnstormer’s Stadium. Wearing a blue t-shirt and ball cap, which he frequently lowers to cover his face, he still can’t master the skill of trying to hide his beautifully straight teeth. Spangler, a humble 56-year-old man, is preparing to run his 21st Red Rose Run in Lancaster on June 6th. He has been running for 36 years and has logged more than 5,080 miles in races alone. He has all of the stats memorized – where he has run, how many miles, what his time was … he is able to spit off his best times for different races straight from memory. He runs simply because it’s “good exercise” and because it makes him feel “good.” Spangler, who lives in a Keystone group home in East Petersburg, has run 11 marathons – his best time being 3 hours and 13 minutes in Chambersburg, Pa. He follows a strict running schedule – 2 miles Monday thru Thursday around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, making sure to always take Fridays off. Today, he sits calmly while tapping his white-sneakered feet as he staples Barnstormers baseball tickets to flyers as part of the work he does for Excentia. Brock Minnich, volunteer coordinator for Excentia, said Spangler is a dedicated, hard-working man who is pleasant to be around. “He’s outgoing,” Minnich said. “He likes to talk and make conversation.” Spangler appeared uncomfortable talking about himself, simply stating that his running ability must be due to “good genes.” He has a routine of eating a big plate of spaghetti before each race. At home, he has a shelf full of trophies and plaques, proudly displayed in his second-floor bedroom. He goes through each one, remembering where the race was held and the year, even though some of the trophies don’t have that information listed. Karen Krueger, Spangler’s house supervisor, said his running is a good social outlet for him. “He has a lot of racing friends who he’s run with for years,” Krueger said. While Spangler is more than just a runner – he also enjoys bowling – it is his running that attracts attention from others. “He’s the star,” Krueger said, adding that he has about 5 friends who will be watching him race in the Red Rose Run this year. The 39th annual Red Rose Run starts at 8 a.m. on June 6th, for those interested in cheering Spangler on throughout the course.
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Jillian Leed stands at her stove, stirring a chicken, baked potato and vegetable soup. Just a year ago, this was something she couldn’t do. The 35-year-old has been living independently in her own apartment for the last two years. “I like it (here),” she said. Her one-bedroom apartment on the second floor of her apartment complex is cozy, decorated with pictures of her family and complete with new furniture in the living room that Jillian proudly states she bought recently with her own money. Jillian has been successful in achieving her dream of living on her own, now working full-time at Good Will on Lincoln Highway, taking public transportation to and from work, and managing her household with help only one day a week. But achieving this success didn’t happen overnight. Anna Edling, Associate Director/Program Specialist for Residential, said Jillian first expressed an interest in having her own place in 2011. The first step was to find competitive employment, and then teach Jillian the skills she would need to be independent, including laundry, cooking, cleaning, navigating public transportation, and money management. “It’s a process,” Edling said. “You don’t just say you want to move out and (then) move out the next day.” After preparing her the best they could, Jillian moved into her apartment two years later in 2013. But even after she was on her own, Edling said they realized there were still skills she had to address. One of the big ones was socialization. When she lived at Frederick Circle, there was always someone to talk to or play a game with. Suddenly, Jillian was all alone. She started peering into her neighbor’s windows, looking for that contact with other people, Edling said. Staff started role-playing with Jillian, training her in social situations. Since taking the bus to work every day was a major factor in Jillian’s success, staff addressed the safety issues that come along with being in public places all alone. One of the ways they role-played was having staff approach her while she rode the bus, asking her questions like her name and her address to make sure Jillian knew not to give out her personal information to strangers. That practice has seeped in to her life in other areas beyond the riding the bus. “No strangers! No strangers come into my apartment,” Jillian said emphatically. Taking steps to move from a group home into one’s own apartment is a complicated process, Edling said. Many don’t realize all the many skills that are needed to achieve such a goal. “Think about your everyday life and all the things you do,” Edling said. “All those little skills that we take for granted, she didn’t know how to do. We want her to live an everyday life like the rest of us.” That includes waking up on time in order to take a shower and get to work, realizing at the end of the day that you didn’t plan for dinner, going to the grocery store, coming home and making dinner … the list goes on, she said. “There are a huge amount of skills that we take for granted every day and she had to be taught,” Edling said. For example, when Jillian lived on Frederick Circle, one of her chores was to mop the kitchen floor. As the scheduled was laid out, Jillian only had to mop the floor once every three weeks since her roommates did the other weeks. When Jillian first moved into her apartment, she was only mopping the floor once every three weeks. Edling said she had to remind Jillian that she alone was responsible for that now, so she had to do it every week. Another skill was cooking, and Jillian seems to have mastered that. She frequently gets up from the couch to go to the stove and check on her soup, stirring it and tasting it. The apartment starts to take on the hearty aroma and warmth of the soup. “I’m making tacos today,” she says excitedly, a new meal she is learning. Brandy Inhenyen, program coordinator and staff member assigned to work with Jillian every Thursday when Jillian has off work, said she has been working with Jillian for about a year. Her job now is easy. “She’s really improved in her cooking skills. She was scared to use the stove when I first started. Now, she does it all herself.” Inhenyen said. “I’m just here to give prompts. She knows what she needs to do.” Inhenyen said the only thing that Jillian still struggles with is money management. She pulls out a roll of quarters and counts out the $1.50 Jillian needs to do her laundry. “If I gave you this whole roll of quarters, you’d spend it,” she says to Jillian. Jillian smiles sheepishly, admitting this to be true, as she takes the quarters and heads downstairs to the laundry room. “Don’t put too much in,” she reminds herself as she puts her clothes into the washing machine. Edling and Inhenyen said Jillian has inspired other clients to want to work toward independence. Two other clients have since moved out, but they are receiving help from their families and are no longer getting support from Excentia. Jillian is currently the only Excentia client living on her own.
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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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