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Jack is running!

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Learn

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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Ryan's TRAIL to employment

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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.

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TRAIL Academy Graduation

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Live

On September 16 2017 I had the pleasure of attending a very special graduation ceremony hosted by Excentia’s TRAIL Academy. In fact it was the first ever graduation ceremony of this amazing program offered to individuals who are seeking independency within their community. The goals and objectives of the Academy are Teaching, Reaching and Achieving Independent Living (TRAIL). The program did not come easy though and there were many hurdles for both the participants, their families and Excentia. [caption id="attachment_1728" align="alignnone" width="300"] Vicki,Ryan, Chris, Brett, Anna, Laurie,[/caption] The TRAIL Academy came to Excentia in June 2016 after over a year of waiting for an official answer. Laurie Kleynen and Anna Edling are the masterminds behind this program and with their persuasion and hard work Excentia was rewarded the program by Lancaster County BH/DS. The participants of TRAIL went through a series of evaluations and an assessment created by Excentia to make sure they were equipped with basic skills and so that their outcome would be successful.   Vicki Bricker, Director of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Services, Lancaster County BH/DS said at the graduation, “We wanted to create a program for the other guys.”   Vicki spoke at the graduation on how many services are focused on individuals with severe developmental disabilities and not so much on those individuals who are high functioning. Vicki and her colleagues have wanted to do something for “the other guys” for quite a few years now and she is more than thrilled with the outcome of Excentia’s TRAIL Academy.   For the last 18 months Ryan and Brett have been living together in a townhome located near Manor Shopping Center in Lancaster County. Together the two have been learning to live on their own. With the help of Direct Service Providers, Elizabeth Ortiz and Wendy Kurtz, they have been acquiring the skills and knowledge of budgeting, use of public transportation, emergency and safety skills, self-advocacy skills, securing employment, etc. [caption id="attachment_1638" align="alignnone" width="300"] Brett and Ryan at their townhome[/caption] On Saturday September 16 they were both awarded diplomas in front of friends, family and the army of people who got them to this milestone in their lives. Both Ryan and Brett took the time to thank everyone for their hardwork and dedication over the last year. Family and friends shared stories about how amazing this program is and what it has done for Ryan and Brett. My favorite story that was told happened to be about a fire drill that went south, quickly, but you had to be there to here about this one.   Anna Edling, Director of Residential Services, says “The individuals had the drive to want to live on their own. Without their drive, the instruction provided by the staff wouldn’t have been successful. While we did hit a few bumps in the road, together the individuals and program staff navigated a path that led Brett and Ryan to be successful in gaining the skills they needed to live independently. Seeing them now, moving into the next chapter of their life, each in their own apartment, is what makes me able to say that the program is a success.”   Ryan will be moving in with a roommate and Brett will be moving into a one bedroom apartment. They will both receive a few hours of support each week instead of the round the clock support like when they first started TRAIL. Two new individuals have been chosen for the 2nd year of the TRAIL Academy and will be moving into the townhome next month.   Congratulations Brett and Ryan! You both worked hard and deserve this!   If you are interested in becoming a Direct Service Provider please follow this link: https://www.ourexcentia.org/careers/. Excentia is always looking to add to our growing family!   Alpha Love and Mine, Lexis

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How to live the good life.

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Thrive

With the current political climate at a constant rolling boil, the morning news can be a pretty depressing start to the day.  Mix that in with local stories of a fire or an arrest and you can start to think that we are doing it all wrong.   But there are two gentlemen that I’ve recently had the privilege to meet, who have restored my faith in humanity.  Bret and Ryan are the first Lancastrians to enter into a program called TRAIL offered by Excentia.  They are learning all of the basic life skills and practices to live independently as employed adults in Lancaster- despite the obstacles and challenges life has dealt them. I got to catch up with them at their house to talk to them about their progress and to witness their preparations for a dinner party they were throwing for their families.  They were making a spaghetti dinner, complete with homemade meatballs, salad, and garlic bread.  Smiles were abundant that day and you could see that both of these fine men were confident and making great strides towards their goals of independence.   In my next conversation with Elizabeth Ortiz, the program instructor for TRAIL, she excitedly shared with me that Ryan and Bret would like to throw another dinner party.  This time, they wanted to offer their cooking and host skills up to the community and they wanted to do it to benefit the S. June Smith Center.  May 18th Excentia’s S. June Smith Center held the Sips, Sweets, & Supports Event at Tellus 360- there were eight auction items that evening- a private yoga session, Phillies tickets, private cooking lessons with a local chef- all brought in great money.  When all the bidding was completed, one local auction item shone brighter than the others.   Bret and Ryan’s offer of a home-cooked spaghetti and meatball diner brought in $1,000 for Excentia’s S. June Smith Center.  These two gentlemen, who are working so hard to make strides in their own lives, found the time and the desire to help others in their community.  They are giving of themselves without hesitation, without direction or prodding, without question of what they will get in return. The next time that you are feeling that the world around you is full of sadness, corruption, or dishonesty- I would urge you to think of Ryan and Bret.  Follow their example and their spirit and be the change you want to see in our community.

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