Community

Thrive

Thrive

A platform for our community to have positive impact, cultivate honest conversation, and stand strong together through encouraging and relatable articles/stories about our struggles, accomplishments and stories.

The Slattery Home - Beyond Accessible

in

Thrive

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.  

read more >

When is a Sock-Hop more than just a dance?

in

Thrive

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

read more >

Sort By

Newest

Stephanie's Employment Story

in

Thrive

Employment levels for people with disabilities are low, even in this strong economy. As of 2017, less than 19% of people with disabilities were employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor. In contrast, the employment-population ratio for those without a disability was nearly 66%. Customized and Supported Employment is a tool we can use to begin to balance out those statistics.   At Excentia, we believe all people should strive for competitive and integrated employment. We utilize a Customized and Supported Employment approach to assist people in achieving their employment goals. We begin by discovering a person’s talents and interests that will direct them towards an enjoyable career path. We then support the person to acquire, obtain, and maintain their employment. We utilize many other supports and services to assist people in being competitively employed. For Stephanie, we started supporting her through the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.   Stephanie is part of our Residential Program and has been very eager to get back to work. She has worked with E.A.R.S. and Goodwill in the past, but neither was quite the right fit for her. She applied for services with OVR and requested Excentia as her service provider. I met Stephanie for the first time back in October of 2018.   Stephanie knew she wanted to find meaningful employment, but she needed some help taking the first steps. Discovery is the first aspect of Customized Employment. This includes exploring and performing tasks from different areas of the “Strengths and Interests” that were identified during the completion of the Discovery Profile. Stephanie and her Job Coach did several job trials at locations such as Dunkin Donuts, New Holland Re-Uzit, and Thomas Trading. We also went to several places of business to enquire about what a job there would entail, such as Weis Markets, Dollar Tree and Spooky Nook Sports.   When we met Barbara Shellenberger from “The Nook”, she appreciated Stephanie’s enthusiasm and was interested in helping Stephanie obtain employment. Barbara sent Stephanie’s resume to her co-worker, Dustin Sload, that manages the Facilities Enhancement Department at the Lanco Fieldhouse, which is a subsidiary of Spooky Nook. He contacted us and we toured the facility. Stephanie stated that she would like to work there because she could complete her job duties in the morning before the facility was open to the public. At that time there would be no distractions, which had been a barrier to maintaining employment for Stephanie in the past. Even better, she could essentially complete her tasks during any 2-3 hour period, between 8am and 2pm. That suited her because she would have a key card along with her ID and all the responsibility that goes with it. Dustin was pleased with Stephanie’s enthusiasm and interest. He informed Stephanie that he would put her name forward with the HR Department when he returned to the main facility. She got an email later that day informing her of the job offer!   Stephanie is now an official employee of Spooky Nook which, by the way, includes a free pass to use all the facilities, and a 35% discount at the hotel and restaurant. She will still need the support of a job coach to navigate some of the aspects of her new job, but with Stephanie’s strong work ethic and team of supporters, she’ll be a great success story for Integrated & Competitive/Supported Employment before you know it. In my opinion, she already is.

read more >

The Most Magical Trip on Earth

in

Thrive

"The bumps are tickling my tummy!" Ryan yelled as we jetted down the runway. Years of working and saving up had finally paid off. "It's party time!" Ryan shouted. Everyone on the plane was in agreement - it was party time! Ryan and I were off to Disney World.   Those who don't know Ryan are missing out. Ryan is a 29 year old man whose passion for life is second only to his passion for having a good time. He is a young man who people look up to, who does not allow others to determine his ability. This became even more evident on our trip to the most magical place on Earth.   In this field, we are constantly reminded that we need to empower others. I forgot what this looked like until Ryan and I were at the Philadelphia International Airport. Although Ryan was in full party mode, I witnessed a look of defeat on his face when he was told to sit in a wheelchair, as him walking through the airport was a liability (for the airport). Those who know Ryan know he was stuck in a wheelchair up until the age of 20. He set a goal of walking across the stage on his high school graduation day to receive his diploma and he achieved this goal. This made him determined to never limit himself to a wheelchair again. Yet, there he was.   However, he didn't let that one small hiccup slow him down. Once we were at the gate and the wheelchair was gone, Ryan and I were back to full celebration mode as he chatted with every person he could find. The flight, the drive, the hotel, and a short sleep were taken care of and we found ourselves waking up the morning of the big day. Time for Disney!   Ryan was determined to see it all, and he certainly did! We went to Magic Kingdom the first day and he refused to stop. He did not let the distance between attractions slow him down and before we knew it lunch time had come. Around noon, I asked Ryan, "are you ready for lunch?" "Nope, not yet!" Ryan responded. Alright then, let's keep going! At 1:00 it was the same answer, then 2:00, then 3:00 and he still didn't want to stop. After all, according to Ryan, "we have to watch the parade!" Finally, 4:30 rolled around and I had to put my foot down. "Ryan, I'm stopping and I am eating." Ryan said "me too, Jake. I am starving!" I then asked him why he didn't want to eat before. His response was "still too much to do!" Ryan was overwhelmed and he loved it. I loved it. I had the absolute pleasure of seeing someone's dream come true and not only did I get to watch him live it, I was absorbed in the enchantment of it.   I was unable to take in the gravity of the moment until it was the end of the night and we waited for the fireworks. Ryan explained to me that he had never seen a fireworks show and asked if it would be neat. Never seeing one at Disney before, all I could say was, "Yeah, I think it will be a pretty good show." I did not realize how unprepared I was for the moment.   Ryan, never one to miss a conversation with anyone around his age (especially ladies!), began to steal the show. A group of people gathered around where we were standing to get ready for the fireworks. Ryan began to chat with all those near him and everyone fell in love with his enthusiasm, openness, and smile. Everyone wanted pictures with him and they wanted to know more about him.   Just then, the lights went down and it was time for the fireworks. Ryan was excited and he expressed it. As the show began, he let out a yell and it changed the perspective from which I was watching the show. I was no longer seeing fireworks like I had seen them before; I was seeing them, and this whole trip, through Ryan's eyes. He made the sacrifice of working and saving, dreaming and doing. He did it! I stood there watching him and as the tears flowed down my face, I realized how lucky I am to know Ryan. He doesn't just take in the big things, he takes in everything. As I stood there watching him, I realized the moment didn't just take me in, it had also taken in the people around us he had befriended moments before.   They were finding themselves emotional over the pure joy one person was experiencing. As I wiped tears from my eyes, I noticed others doing the same and pointing to Ryan - not because he was different, but because he was there and experiencing the moment with them.   Although the trip did not stop there, it did become a life changing moment for the two of us (especially me). We went to Hollywood Studios on the second day and Ryan was able to meet some of his favorite characters like Woody, Buzz Lightyear, The Incredibles, and the famous mouse duo. Ryan thanked me at the end of the trip for going with him and the only thing I could process was how indebted I was to him. He helped me see that nothing should stop us from reaching for our dreams and working hard to make them happen. Ryan is one of the most interesting, kind, and grateful people I have ever met. Anyone who has interacted with him truly knows what kind of people Excentia gets the pleasure of supporting. Being out of direct care for a few years made me realize that without daily interactions with the people we support, we truly cannot know what is needed in their lives. Thanks to Ryan, I have remembered.

read more >

TimberNook FAQs

in

Thrive

What is TimberNook? TimberNook is a nature-based developmental outdoor program that integrates sensory experiences, imagination and nature for all kids. Children play together and independently using stories, games, and new experiences to have fun, learn, develop, and explore. The TimberNook curriculum weaves together the therapeutic benefits of nature with activities that inspire children to think creatively, to accept challenges, and even to learn from failure.   What is TimberNook of Lancaster County? TimberNook of Lancaster County is offered as a service of Excentia, a nonprofit organization in Lancaster County that provides supports for people with developmental needs and autism throughout the lifespan. At TimberNook of Lancaster County, children have the chance to play together and independently, using stories, games, and experiences to have fun, learn, develop, and explore. Excentia believes in the TimberNook philosophy that the more children engage in self-directed play and take reasonable risks outdoors, the better equipped they are to be successful in home and school environments.   When will TimberNook programming happen? Storybook Session 1 Dates: May 20 – 24 Time: 9:00am – 12:00pm Capacity: 20 Ages: 4-7 years Description: One of our most popular programs where young children “live and breathe” stories out in the wild. We’ll be doing everything from experimenting with colors in a giant foam experience for the story "Little Blue and Little Yellow" to creating life-sized spider webs over the mud after hearing the story "The Very Busy Spider." With the turn of every day comes a new story for the children to experience and lots of FUN!   Tiny Ones Session Dates: May 28 & 30 and June 4 & 6 Time: 9:00am - 11:00am Capacity: 16 Ages: 2-4 years with an adult Description: This program was designed for the smallest of our TimberNook adventurers. You and your child will venture into the woods for creative play opportunities that engage the mind and challenge the senses, such as hosting a tea party in the garden to doing “construction work” in mud puddles to experimenting with color in giant foam experiences. You’ll also walk away each week with an idea on how to inspire creative play at home.   Going Wild Session Dates: July 8 -12 Time: 9:00am - 3:00pm Capacity: 24 Ages: 7-12 years Description: An all-time classic TimberNook camp for older children who enjoy taking play to a whole new level. Children will create an elaborate fort system equipped with trap doors, barricades, tunnel systems, and more. It will be a week full of adventure, games, and surprises! This program will stretch the minds of your young ones and leave them asking for more.   Extreme Art Session Dates: July 15 – 19 Time: 9:00am - 3:00pm Capacity: 24 Ages: 7-12 years Description: This week is full of active creativity and lots of color! Campers will have the opportunity to create their own fruit and veggie dye to dye fabrics, build some fabulous forts to duck and cover from paint bombs, rocket paint into the sky, play Messy Monkey In the Middle and more! Those who enjoy art in a big way will have a large canvas to work with.   Storybook Session 2 Dates: August 5 – 9 Time: 9:00am – 12:00pm Capacity: 20 Ages: 4-7 years Description: One of our most popular programs where young children “live and breathe” stories out in the wild. We’ll be doing everything from experimenting with colors in a giant foam experience for the story "Little Blue and Little Yellow" to creating life-sized spider webs over the mud after hearing the story "The Very Busy Spider." With the turn of every day comes a new story for the children to experience and lots of FUN!   How much does it cost? Storybook Sessions: $110 Tiny Ones: $60 Extreme Art: $235 Wild Ones: $230   Where is the TimberNook site? All TimberNook sessions will be held at Climbers Run Nature Preserve, in partnership with the Lancaster County Conservancy. Climbers Run is located at 226 Frogtown Road, Pequea, PA 17565.   Who can attend TimberNook? Below is some information that may be helpful in deciding if your child would be successful in a TimberNook program. We are available to answer specific questions about your child, so please contact us if you have questions. As a program in the woods, children will be walking a short distance to the site; navigating over natural surfaces such as roots and uneven ground. Children should be able to follow directions such as being kind to other children and keeping an adult in sight at all times. Children should be able to stay within a designated area and not be a flight/elopement risk. TimberNook is a child-led program. This means that adults step back but tune in for many portions of the day. Peer interaction is a vital component of the program.   How do I register? Registration is open now! Click here to sign up.   Who can I contact for more information? For more information about TimberNook, email timbernook@ourexcentia.org or call 717-299-4829 ext 333. Don't forget to like our Facebook page!

read more >

Sensory Play

in

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 experience 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.

read more >

Katee loves working for Excentia.

in

Thrive

Swoosh! The door swings shut behind me, and I am whisked into the hustle and bustle of work. It’s an overcast day outside, and my mood seems to match the weather. As I plop my items onto my desk in an office of four people, I sit down with a sigh. It’s only 8 AM, and I already feel exhausted with the amount of work that beckons me. The noise both inside and outside of my office prickles at my nerves, and I glance at my calendar to see the list of tasks that must be done. I slowly and meticulously check items off my list: check email, check my mailbox upstairs and downstairs, visit the different group rooms in hopes that my “hello” will brighten their day. Seeing that all is well, I shyly tuck away my superhero cape, knowing that, for now, all is well.   When I share with people where I work and for whom I provide support, I receive a mixed bag of looks and responses. You do WHAT? You have to do what? That’s crazy. You should be sainted for all you do. It takes a special person to do something like that. I understand where they’re coming from, but I so wish that I could prove the population at large wrong about the group with whom I have the pleasure of working.   There’s a song in the famous musical “South Pacific” that says that one “[has] to be taught to fear.” Growing up, I didn’t have any opportunities to interact with or learn about those with disabilities. One summer in high school, I had an chance to serve at a camp geared specifically for those with special needs. That weeklong experience sparked a desire to continue the fun and kindness and social justice for these people. One degree in special education and five years in education later, I found myself at a crossroads. I was faced with the questions What happens to people living with disabilities after they completed their education? Why aren’t there more integral opportunities for people with disabilities to truly participate in their community? Searching for these answers, I found and began working for residential and day programs.     For the past two and half years, I have served Excentia’s Adult Day Service. I started out as a direct support professional (room worker) and currently serve as a program specialist. I’m not going to lie: the days are sometimes long, loud, and overwhelming. We face many challenges that include short staffing, drama, deadlines, paperwork, being hit, etc. People see these things, and they don’t see or remember the smiles, hugs, and skill development that occur as well. When the going gets tough, I am sent these little reminders as gems. They reinforce the idea and feeling that these are people, like anyone else. When working with people, there will be both good and bad days.   People tell me all the time that I have a “gift” or “have a heart of gold” for working with the population I do. I don’t see it as such. The populations I work with have taught me how to be kind, how to love, how to be patient, how to be creative, and how to find joy. I thought I was going to teach forever, but I ended up being the one who is learning. Anyone can do what I can do. You just have to have the courage to try and to listen when there are no words to be said. As Allison Krause says, “You say it best when you say nothing at all.”   To learn more about Katee's first job at Excentia, check out the video below! https://www.ourexcentia.org/careers/

read more >

Ryan's TRAIL to employment

in

Thrive

Ryan began his journey to Independent Living in September of 2017. While learning the skills needed to live independently at home, an important part of this skill set is finding employment and maintaining that employment to sustain him self financially. Ryan entered the TRAIL Program in the middle of his OVR assessment. He had already participated in one assessment and was waiting for the second to be scheduled.  Due to the timeline of the TRAIL program and after waiting six months, all along playing phone tag with his OVR counselor, finding Ryan employment was becoming more urgent and important to his success. Liz and I started brainstorming about possible employment opportunities for Ryan circumventing OVR. We spoke with Ryan on several occasions discovering his likes/dislikes, where he saw him self employed and what tasks he saw him self performing. Through this process, we decided some form of construction or landscaping work would be his ideal.  When these ideas were brought up to Ryan he responded positively and was excited at the possibilities. I thought about the contacts and resources I had and first called my Aunt who owns Beaver Creek Farm Cabins on March 10th, 2017. This property requires significant outside upkeep. She liked the idea and was very receptive; however, this idea would not work due to unforeseen obstacles. I then contacted my cousin who is partners in an Arborist/landscaping business; Weaveson Arborist. At first he gave me the names of others in the field that focus specifically on landscaping due to not knowing if he had any part-time positions open. However, he called me back a few days later explaining that he had discussed this with his partner and they would welcome the help part-time performing odd tasks and general assistance. He asked that Ryan email him his resume. Ryan emailed his resume the evening of April 7th, 2017. An interview was scheduled for Tuesday April 11th. He prepared for the interview through role playing interviews and filling out an employment application. Liz and I accompanied Ryan to the interview. Ryan held his own with minimal prompting from us during the interview. Ryan was offered the job and he accepted the part-time position. Additionally, Ryan would be receiving transportation to and from work by his employer. Liz assisted him in filling out the W-4 paperwork. His first day of work was April 18th, 2017. Ryan enjoyed preparing for work by purchasing specific boots and attire required for his position, as well as an extra large lunch bag. Ryan’s job supports were provided by his employer, he would be working 1:1 with certain co-workers. Ryan has had a few obstacles while employed; however, his employer has adapted Ryan’s tasks to his skill level and has addressed concerns as they have come into play. Only one time has his employer contacted Liz or I with a concern. It was brought to our attention that Ryan had been calling off work multiple times a week. We brought this concern to Ryan’s supports coordinator and had a meeting with him to discuss what was causing these call-offs. Ryan has improved his attendance since. Ryan has benefited in multiple ways; both professionally and personally through employment. He has formed friendships and other natural supports while working there and has been included in many activities such as camping at Knoebles, going out to eat, and attending his boss’s wedding reception. We have seen Ryan’s self-confidence increase. Ryan continues to build on his skills, grow and sustain Independent Living.

read more >

Join the Community

Create an account to join our community and receive all of the latest stories and articles!

  • Community Form

    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.