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Featured Articles

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Carl Spangler - Red RoseRun

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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's Story

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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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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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Routines are Learning Opportunities

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My kids haven’t been infants or toddlers for more years than I would care to mention, but my memory of those times would be that those days were anything but “routine.” I think that most families with young kids feel like the only thing routine about their day is “unpredictability.” For most people, a routine is doing the same thing, at the same time and in the same way each day. When trying to use routines as a learning opportunity for kids I find that parents or caregivers often respond that they don’t have a routine.   What does it mean to teach children during daily routines? We think of routines as the parts of your day that have a start and a finish.  This changes our thinking from a schedule to events. I would like to note that for most people schedules seem to imply structure.  While young children thrive on structure and predictability this article is focusing on how to use your daily routines to enhance your child’s learning.   Figuring out your Routine All families are different however we all generally share routines that involve eating, playing, bathing and bedtime.  These routines are great learning opportunities for any child.  For example, when your child is learning to walk, you might carry her to the highchair for breakfast or you could use that opportunity and help her walk to the highchair instead.   Ideas for using Routines as Learning Opportunities First, consider these questions: Think about the daily routines of your family. What skills are you child working to master?  Where are they in their development? What are your priorities as a parent? Consider your own needs. For example, my son was not a morning child.  On the days that I needed to get him to daycare, getting out the door on time was my only goal.  It probably took him longer to learn to dress himself than it took his friends but I was confident that he would learn it one day. In the morning I just didn’t have the time to make it a priority for him to practice that skill. On the other hand, he was a late talker so it was a priority to bring communication strategies into our daily lives. Take the high priority skills your child is learning and your daily routine to see how many opportunities you can give your child for mastering a skill. Practice, Practice, Practice – young children love repetition!   Using Routine Based Learning for kids with unique developmental needs Back in the day (as my grown-up children say), as a young occupational therapist, I would meet the family of a child in the waiting room of a specialized clinic, take the child away for “my” therapy, and return them to their parents at the end of 30 minutes with instructions for “their” home therapy program. Thank goodness we have evolved to understand that parents are the most important and most consistent teacher that children will have.  We have also recognized that children learn best when the task is relevant to their interests and needs.  Out of this research, we have what we call Routines-based Intervention. This process is more natural and creates a much more comfortable and enjoyable experience for your child. Those 30 minutes of therapy that I was able to give a child made little impact on his/her development compared to the number of minutes a child can practice each week with caregivers who have learned to enrich their routines with the learning opportunities that are so important to young children. My role as a therapist has changed from working in a one-to-one situation with the child to being a mentor and coach to the family.  I believe that with my background in development and the family’s knowledge of their child, their activities, and their priorities, we become a powerful team that can problem-solve and invent unique ways to help young children master new skills.

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Allegra's Story

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When we asked Anthony and Kristie what one word best to describe their daughter, Allegra’s, personality they answered, “charismatic!”  Their family started their journey with the S. June Smith Center through our Birth to Three program where Allegra received physical, occupational, and speech therapy in their home.  The three therapists from the S. June Smith Center worked with Tony, Kristie, and Allegra on a regular basis until Allegra reached a point where she graduated from needing services.   While our therapists certainly miss spending time with Allegra and her family, it’s a true success story when we can see our kiddos thriving on their own.  Kristie and Tony shared that they enjoyed interacting with Allegra’s therapists and seeing her grow and develop in a fun environment.   Kristie and Allegra continue to utilize the services from the S. June Smith Center as they together attend a weekly S.P.L.A.S.H. class.   Allegra loves to play with her dolls, while she also enjoys dress up, dancing and singing. Her favorite color is purple! And, her favorite book is I’ll Be Me and You Be You.

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Inclusive Preschool Program Benefits

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The S. June Smith Center has an inclusive preschool program. Our classroom provides an inviting, welcoming and nurturing environment that includes all children from the neighborhood community, regardless of their abilities.   Inclusive environments are also supported by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). NAEYC (ideal I.1.8-ethical responsibility to children) supports the right of each child to play and learn in an inclusive environment that meets the needs of children with and without disabilities.   Our preschool classrooms provide the type of environment supported by the NAEYC every day. We try to help people to see the “possibility” in individuals instead of the “disability”.   Meeting a Child’s Learning Needs through Diverse Teaching Strategies All children in our inclusive preschool classrooms reach their developmental potential with the guidance of teaching and support staff who use diverse teaching strategies which target the strengths and learning styles of each child. This type of instruction provides a framework for teaching, learning, and assessment that not only helps us meet the developmental and academic needs of our students but also inspires feelings of safety, comfort, excitement, motivation and satisfaction in our diverse classrooms.   We often hear from parents that Kindergarten teachers are impressed with how well the children from our program are able to draw their names and print their letters!  We use the “First Strokes Handwriting Program” in our preschool classrooms. This is a sensory-based approach to learning to make the letter shapes. All our students benefit from this easy and fun approach to learning to draw their letters. What’s even more exciting is watching the children work together to create large letter-of-the-week designs using blocks or other theme-related objects as we learn our alphabet.   Creating Attitudes of Mutual Respect in Children An inclusive preschool classroom provides an early awareness of diversity and the needs of others. These shared preschool experiences enable children without disabilities to accept others by appreciating likenesses and helping to understand differences.   Throughout our school year, we provide activities as part of a unit called: “We Are All Alike... We Are All Different” Children work together in pairs to discover how they are alike and how they are different. This activity and simply participating in an inclusive environment helps to create mutual respect among all children.   As a classroom teacher, I know that inclusion has been successful when the children without a disability bring toys, games or even adapted learning materials over to their classmates who cannot walk or move independently throughout the classroom without being asked to do this by an adult. It demonstrates that they understand this particular friend likes to play with toys or games just as much as they do, but simply need assistance in order to get the toy or game.  I also like when the families in our classrooms get together for pre-arranged play dates or birthday celebrations and include everyone…even those children with more involved needs.Throughout our school year, we provide activities as part of a unit called: “We Are All Alike... We Are All Different” Children work together in pairs to discover how they are alike and how they are different. This activity and simply participating in an inclusive environment helps to create mutual respect among all children.   Inclusion Encourages Development of Social Skills in Children Children without special learning or developmental needs develop compassion for their friends and learn to advocate for these friends as they go through shared life and community experiences together. The benefits of inclusion for children with special learning and developmental needs include: nurtures self-esteem social interaction with peers facilitates communication and the development of social skills children acquire genuine friendships and life experiences within their community children develop self-advocacy skills needed throughout their lives   At S. June Smith Center we have been practicing inclusion at the preschool level since 1996. I have observed the development of true friendships in those years which have lasted through the child’s formal education years. I have observed classmates defending others whom are targeted for bullying once they move on to school age programs, and know that mutual respect and advocacy skills –learned at an early age—have been of great benefit to these children who have participated in an inclusive preschool classroom. It also creates a feeling of success when I hear children without disabilities explaining to others (usually an adult) why one of their classmates /friends uses a Big Mack switch or an iPad to “talk” with others in the classroom or in the community. Inclusion works!  

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