Empowering People

With Developmental Needs

Welcome to Excentia Human Services

Excentia Human Services is a nonprofit organization in Lancaster County that provides services for people with developmental needs and autism throughout the lifespan. These services can begin at birth with therapeutic and educational programs for children and their families – some will use services for only a few months, and others until public school services start. Many return after graduation to utilize adult day services, employment services, or residential options.

Here's How We Serve Our Community

Early Childhood

Provides therapeutic and educational services for children with developmental needs.

Learn More

Life Enrichment

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

Learn More

Residential

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

Learn More

Community Matters

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

The Power of Communication

in

Thrive

When I first met Vanessa at her home, her vibrant personality greeted me at the door. For those who do not know her, Vanessa is very expressive and curious about everything that is happening in her environment. She will maneuver her body to see what is occurring in any direction and utilizes all of her capabilities to respond to others. She communicates through a combination of vocalizations, neck, body and eye movements. To the untrained eye it appears she can share her likes and dislikes, answer yes and no questions and show joy and sadness. As someone from the speaking world, I recognized the limited range of expressive language and emotions that she had in her repertoire. It was obvious from our initial meetings that what she lacked in expressive communication, she compensated with her effervescent personality, which captivated those around her. Unfortunately, this illusion of communication may have veiled the need for further examination to enhance her basic methods.   Mobility for Vanessa means confinement to a wheelchair, apart from laying in a recliner or bed. She can move her head and hands, and with intense effort, parts of her lower body and torso. She depends on others to complete all daily needs and to understand her language. Her limited ability to communicate with the world outside of her chair causes Vanessa extreme frustration which can manifest into aggressive and harmful behaviors. Her means of communication at the time consisted of a slight nod or swift side movement of her head (for “yes” and “no”), facial expressions, laughing, vocalizations, body language, and formulation of some single words that at that time were translated by staff to the best of their ability. She has a whiteboard in her bedroom that informs her of what staff are working, any upcoming events or changes to her routine to reduce her anxiety. Vanessa loves books and uses her eyes to identify choices when presented with pictures, but this is a time-consuming process with limited options.   One day, her housemate purchased a picture communication book which sparked Vanessa’s interest immediately. She requested to look at it constantly. It was decided that it made sense to have a much larger picture book so she could use her fingers to point and work on her fine motor skills simultaneously. This was not an area that I had previously explored, but I felt there must be someone who could assist her with increasing her abilities beyond this book. After some research, I found an agency that would complete a communication assessment for Vanessa. This was a novel concept to me, and I had no idea what to expect. A specialist visited with her team and assessed Vanessa through interviews, historical information, and physically with assistive technology. After it was over, Vanessa had the opportunity to use an iPad and switch instead of her book. She worked with her staff to create pictures of places she liked to visit, activities in which she wanted to participate, clothes she wanted to wear. This opened a window for her to speak, and however basic those words were, they were hers.   This opened a window for me as well. My mind started to see the connections communication had with everything. When walking through our day program, I saw a reoccurring vacancy between almost every individual and staff. I was thinking, “How did I miss this?! Why didn’t any of us question the lack of communication coming from all of these places?” My focus turned to those speaking - the staff. I heard staff offering options, then making the decisions, then changing the activity, and repeating the same format over again. What did I hear from the individuals? I heard silence. To give a realistic description, a room can be a loud, chaotic place at times, full of noises, music, TV, people. But the silence I heard was evident, and it was the deprivation of meaningful conversation. My next question was, “Now that I see it, what am I going to do about it?” I began reading and investigating communication and devices, seeking out as much knowledge as quickly as possible. I had to be less of a novice I was if I was going to convince others how much these systems and assessments were needed.   My former supervisor didn’t need much convincing and was supportive from the start. She introduced me to an amazing person, Heather Smith, a Speech-Language Pathologist from our Early Childhood program. Heather ended up being the most valuable part of this project. She took my scattered thoughts and made them into a singular vision - to one day walk through the program rooms and hear the individuals speak to staff, to themselves, and to each other. Highly motivated with this revelation, Heather and I blindly embarked on a journey to create a utopia of voices and ran. We compensated for what we didn’t know with good intentions and the desire to do whatever was needed and to do it well. I couldn’t have designed a better partner, as she had years of experience working in early intervention with communication services that are a fundamental part of a child’s plan, but not a readily available service for adults. I found that some adults owned devices, but they were outdated and had been sitting unused for years. Heather and I fumbled through identifying what services we could provide and how to offer them to everyone.   Fast forwarding a few months, Heather has completed multiple assessments with adults in our day program and residential homes. There are communication boards and books in all day program rooms. Individuals have access to iPads with communication applications to begin their own journey. In between her two primary jobs, Heather has acquired a permanent device for one individual and others have trial devices, including Vanessa, to peruse which is the most functional for each of their needs. Recently, we had the second session with a representative for a device that can use a person’s eye gaze or head tracking to access the images on screen instead of a switch or fingers. Now Vanessa no longer struggles to maintain control over her hands to push a button, but can speak fluently with the motion of her head. When I greeted her last time, she said, “Hi, my name is Vanessa.” It was so shocking to me, even knowing she was capable, that I continued to ask her questions and only realized after walking away from her, that we just had our first reciprocal conversation.   Before this world of Augmentative and Assistive Communication revealed itself to me, I could summarize the best part of my job as helping others experience high quality lives. Now the best part of my job is to witness them discover what it means to truly actualize it.  

read more >

Excentia Announces Rebrand to Excentia Human Services

in

Thrive

LANCASTER, PA (September 10, 2019) — Excentia is pleased to announce its rebranding to Excentia Human Services, effective today. Initiated as part of the organization’s new strategic plan, the goal of the rebrand is to better reflect its newly expanded mission of providing services throughout the lifespan for all people to have equal value and opportunities to lead productive and fulfilling lives. The rebranding includes a redesigned logo, tagline, vision, and a new website to be launched by the end of the year.   “We have developed a strong vision of what we want to be in the future as a human services provider. This vision includes building on the success of our current programs, as well as growing our reach to other underserved populations in need of services,” said Excentia’s CEO, Chris Shaak.   The change comes after the organization’s 50+ years of service in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Under its official corporate name, the PAI Corporation, the organization was formed in 1986 from a larger multi-county organization, Prospectus Associates. In 2011, the PAI Corporation acquired United Support Group, a Lancaster-based organization founded in 1993. In 2012, the PAI Corporation changed its name to Excentia. Finally, the Lancaster-based S. June Smith Center, which was founded in 1965, was acquired by Excentia in 2013.   As part of transitioning to Excentia Human Services, the organization will phase out the use of any other names, including the S. June Smith Center. While Excentia Human Services remains committed to continuing the legacy of Dr. S. June Smith, this program will be referred to as Early Childhood Services. By unifying under the Excentia Human Services name, the community will have a better understanding of what the organization does and the lifespan of services it provides.   “As Board Chair of Excentia, my commitment to this amazing organization couldn’t be stronger” said Lisa Johanning, SVP/Director Talent Acquisition for Fulton Financial Corporation. “The organization has grown tremendously and stands as a leader in providing an exceptional level of care to those we serve and support. I’m passionate about making our schools, communities, and workplaces as inclusive as possible, and Excentia Human Services is a valued partner to make this happen.”   For more information, please contact Brittany Grear at bgrear@excentiahumanservices.org.

read more >

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 >

Get connected with a supportive community that thrives together.

Check it out