What does Excentia do to enrich the lives of its individuals?

Excentia reaches out to individuals with ASDs

Empowering people with development needs, Excentia is a growing nonprofit
organization with a great reputation, a respected human services presence in the
Lancaster, PA. Excentia offers services to individuals with physical and intellectual
disabilities, and more recently, our support services recognize Autism Spectrum
Disorders (ASDs) as covered under Excentia’s umbrella of care. According to the NIMH,
ASDs encompass individual difficulties in communicating with others, seeing things from
another’s perspective (theory of mind), and making sense of information in his or her

Residential Services and the Autism Support Program
This Autism Support Program operates within Excentia’s Residential Services, which
provides housing options, community accommodations, and support resources for its
clients. Direct Support Staff and Community Inclusion Specialists, for instance, are
employed within Residential Services to facilitate their client’s individual-driven growth.
We help the individuals reach their own goals, and we perform the groundwork that is a
day-to-day living assistance. Simple acts of service foster an individual’s independence
and inclusion within the larger community.

My role in the Autism Program

Direct Support Staff and Community Inclusion Specialists within the Autism Support
Program offer a unique set of skills and services to their clients. We must do more than
merely “show up” when scheduled because we as competent staff must be aware of our
individual’s particular social, emotional, and sensory needs and challenges. I remember
that my clients with ASD possess a sometimes-profound understanding of their own
needs and limitations. The individual’s “problem” is that a piece is apparently missing
when he or she engages a challenging-to-them task, like cooking a good meal or
interacting positively with peers. My job is to provide that missing piece, which can be
called “presence”.

Having presence with an individual helps motivate the person with an ASD to achieve
his or her own level of success and independence. Within the Autism Support Program,
my clients represent a range of capabilities and diverse degrees of independence and
performance. Presence with an individual means being alert to his or her particular
level of functioning in a given area. This social-emotional quality is a supportive force
that is felt by the client who is often not able to verbalize his or her own need for
appropriate help. My presence enables me to step in or back off. To assist the individual
or to refrain from assisting. It is all about what the person needs presently to perform
the task at hand. I am ready to help and respond in respect with my client’s needs.

Working with an individual with an ASD

One of my clients is responsible for tasks like wiping surfaces, reordering his belongings,
and vacuuming floors, since his apartment is comprised of four rooms which all need
cleaning and organization. So during one particular session, I scrubbed bathroom
surfaces alongside him. I am no cleanliness expert, but this instance required my
hands-on effort, and with a curious yet concerned demeanor, he watched my cleaning
progress. Thus, our joint attention, my several verbal prompts, and his conversation
about my point of view, cleared a vista into my personal mental state and as well as my
own expectations. My presence in this instance incited a teaching moment that
reinforced my client’s theory of mind (understanding the world from another’s
perspective) and, of course, we bolstered his cleaning habit.

Commitment to “presence”

Excentia is able to support its support staff who in turn support their individuals. The

management and direct support staff of this organization really want to see the growth

of their clients! Indeed, one of the company’s values is commitment, a virtue that

highlights the dedication that is needed to see the most profound and lasting personal

growth of individuals with or without ASDs. I can see this commitment expressed in my

own presence with clients on the autism spectrum, and I have seen other staff show

consistency, attentiveness, and follow-through with their own clients, too. Let us

persevere and mature as committed support staff! Our individuals are ready to engage,

and we should be, too.

by Sean Jesiolowski, Community Inclusion Specialist / Direct Support Staff

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