This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. And Schreiber’s Occupational Therapy Department is using the occasion to add some moon fun to therapy sessions.
Eli Cole climbed to the top of a lunar hill (actually a huge pillow) and jumped into a small lunar lake (actually a big ball pit).
Wyatt Dennison turned a piece of paper into a rocket, slipped it over a plastic straw then had it blast off with a puff of air from his mouth.
Schreiber OT Bernie Hershey was the mission control commander who made all this lunar fun happen. Bernie likes to use current events to add a little spice to her therapy sessions.
Wyatt, 6, comes to Schreiber for OT and speech-language therapies. His mom Liz says Wyatt is on the autism spectrum, and he’s been coming to Schreiber for more than three years for help with his fine and gross motor skills and to work on sensory issues.
Wyatt Dennison and Schreiber OT Bernie Hershey launch their straw rockets at the same time to end Wyatt’s therapy session.
For the lunar crafts, Wyatt has to use fine motor skills to cut out the piece of paper that will become the body of the rocket, then cut out the fins. He then has to wrap the rocket around a pencil to form it, tape the fins to the body, then slip it off the pencil and onto the straw.
“The kids don’t really know much about the moon landing, so we’re incorporating our therapy goals into activities with a NASA or a moon-landing theme,” Bernie said. “NASA’s website had lots of ideas we were able to use.”
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory actually posted the instructions for the straw rocket on its website.
Eli works on his balance and core strength when he’s climbing the lunar hill. He also practiced his handwriting by pressing gently on “zero gravity” paper (paper on a soft surface that would allow for easy punctures).
Eli Cole jumps into a ‘lunar lake’ during a recent occupational therapy session. The exercise added an element of space fun to therapy.
Both boys also used a small hammer to smash “moon rocks” during therapy, another exercise that worked on hand-eye coordination, and walked in moon boots, that helps them practice balance and coordination.
“With everything that our families have to deal with on a daily basis, adding variety with a special theme improves motivation on even the most difficult task, like the handwriting practice,” Bernie said.
There is a little bit of the Apollo spirit in all of this, the creativity and the experimenting and the striving to be a little bit better.
And that’s a good thing. For Schreiber and for the kids.
We have a lot of therapy bikes at Schreiber. But there was a certain kind of bike we were missing: a hand bike, no pedaling, for school-age kids. Enter a group of senior mechanical engineering students from Penn State Harrisburg.
Bernie Hershey, a Schreiber occupational therapist, was the one who suggested the project to the group in September.
The students, all seniors — Nicole Linke, 21; Cody Mackanick, 23; Michael Ruch, 23; and Andrew Saienni, 23 — came to visit Schreiber after Nicole and Michael had interned over the summer with Arconic, a Lancaster County manufacturer. Arconic has supported Schreiber for several years by donating and sending volunteers. Nicole and Michael joined a group of Arconic employees for a service day at Schreiber that included a tour by Susan Fisher, Schreiber’s volunteer coordinator.
“We have one hand bike, and it’s too small for some of the kids that need it,” Bernie said. “Susan brought them to me, and they said they were looking for a capstone project for their senior year.”
The tour sparked their engineer brains immediately.
“When I saw this old therapy bike they had, I was intrigued,” Nicole said. “I thought that looked like something we could work on.”
The idea they developed with Bernie was to build a bike for kids ages 6-12 that would require the kids to pedal using only their hands. (Watch Zoey Zweizig do a demonstration ride in the video below.)
“We’re always looking for ways to have upper body resistance,” Bernie said. “One of the best ways to build upper body strength is to have them propel themselves through space.”
That movement triggers the release of endorphins in the brain that are pleasing and calming at the same time. Bernie saw that immediately when Owen Hull climbed on the bike. Owen is 5, and he receives occupational, physical and speech-language therapy at Schreiber. He’s on the autism spectrum, said his mom Monica Hull.
“If you noticed, the more he rode the more he talked to the college students,” Bernie said. “He engaged with those kids, which he normally doesn’t do. He was mechanically inspecting the bike and asking questions about it. Oh, I got such a charge out of it.”
The students have enjoyed the work, too. They started in September and the bike they brought this week was a first prototype. They will take it back and make adjustments based on the feedback from Bernie, and from the kids. They asked the kids what colors the bike should be, for example. The project should be finished in April and will be exhibited during Penn State Harrisburg’s annual show of capstone engineering projects in May.
None of the students knew anything about Schreiber a year ago. All are from outside of Lancaster County. But they connected right away with Schreiber’s mission and wanted to do something to help.
“I just liked spending a year working on something that will help someone instead of making something for a company that might not even use it,” Nicole said.
“Knowing that it would be used every day is really important,” Cody Mackanick added.
The students raised the money for the bike themselves, about $1,500 in all, through a GoFundMe page. They spent a portion of that for the materials to build the bike.
And the rest? That money they will donate that to Schreiber.
Working the checkout line at Stauffers of Kissel Hill in Lititz, Jason Hines keeps up a steady stream of chatter with every customer who comes through his line.
For some, he takes the numbers from their bill and references a date in history (he’s a history buff).
“You learn a lot of history here,” one woman told him.
For others, he’ll share something about himself.
“This is the third anniversary of my becoming a standup comic,” he told another woman.
For every customer, he found some way to add a little extra bit of service.
“You saved 299 pennies today,” he said to one couple. “Have a great day.”
He’s 18 years old, a high school graduate working and taking classes at the Lancaster campus of Harrisburg Area Community College.
The Jason the folks at Stauffers know now is a long way from the Jason who came to Schreiber at age 3. Even before starting at Schreiber, Jason had been diagnosed with autism and was receiving Early Intervention services. Jason’s specific diagnosis, said his mom Jackie, was PDD-NOS: Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.
“I had some problems talking and had some motor delays,” Jason said.
Jackie is a special instructor at Schreiber. She knows her way around education and kids with autism and other learning disabilities. Even for her, choices could be hard. When Jason was 5 and it was time to decide whether or not to start school, Jackie was torn.
“I struggled whether to keep him in early intervention or have him start kindergarten,” she said. “Cognitively, he was ready. But his expressive language with that of a 2 year old. Ultimately we decided to send him to kindergarten, and we had plenty of support services in place.”
Initially at Schreiber, he received all threee services and special instruction from Jay Graver in the S.T.A.R.S. Preschool. Eventually, he concentrated on occupational therapy, attending Schreiber until he was 8 to work on his sensory integration, fine motor skills and attention and focus.
By middle school, he had made a lot of progress, but he still worried that he wasn’t always speaking correctly.
“Once ninth grade hit, kids stopped being jerks, and I started making more friends,” Jason said.
In high school, he flourished. He was involved in an anti-bullying program, he did plays, he sang in the choir. He joined the Unite Club, Warwick High School’s Mini-THON in support of the Four Diamonds Fund.
“I raised the most money, which made me King of Mini-THON,” Jason said.
All of his success helped him become senior class vice president and gain enough confidence to start trying to become a performer. He has dabbled in stand up comedy, telling jokes and doing impressions. He made news this month when Lancaster Online noticed that his witty patter with customers included an impression of Philadelphia Eagles play-by-play announcer Merrill Reese.
That’s how he is every day on the job at Stauffers, always a willing performer, especially for little kids. He will talk like Mickey Mouse or do voices from “Monsters Inc.” or “Frozen.” He will ask them about their favorite characters. Kids will ask moms to go to Jason’s line when they check out.
Toni Lutz, a shift supervisor for the cashiers at the Lititz store, said she knew Jason before he even started working at Stauffers. He and her daughter Madeline went to school together at Warwick.
“He’s naturally that way,” Toni said. “He’s nicer than most people. He’s just kind. It’s refreshing.”
“We Delight Shoppers” is a lyric in the Stauffers jingle, and Jason said he sang that at the end of his job interview back in 2015.
“It helped me get the job,” he said. “My charm wins people over.”
At HACC, he’s taking classes with an eye on becoming a teacher, probably an elementary school teacher. Which means he would be working with little ones on their writing and speaking and making sure they were paying attention.
And that feels just about right.
Ninette Jackson first sought out essential oils to help her dad, who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease. A decade and lot of education later, she has become an essential oil guru. And she’s right here in Lancaster County.
Ninette’s a lawyer by trade. But she didn’t enjoy it much. Her interest in essential oils gradually seeped into her life. The more she saw their benefits, the more she wanted to learn.
She became a distributor but saw a lot of her customers struggle with the cost. The law practice soon ended, and in 2010 Josiah’s Oils was born.
“Once I had kids, I became more interested in getting these for lower prices,” Ninette said. “I found ways to source them directly from the farms that make them. So I started a company to bring the oils in, bottle them and sell them.”
Over the years, Ninette has put in about 860 hours of study to become a certified clinical aromatherapist. Her husband Marc is an aromatherapist, meaning he hasn’t studied as much, and he manages their store on Meadow Lane in Manheim Township.
The Jacksons have five children, ranging in age from 15 to 7. In the middle is Josiah, who will be 10 in April. Josiah has Down Syndrome and visits Schreiber Fridays for physical therapy in the pool and occupational therapy.
“We’ve really enjoyed (therapy),” Ninette said. “It’s a nice way for him to get the expertise of the therapists, and it’s a great way to learn how to carry over what he does in therapy at home.”‘
Bernie Hershey is a Schreiber occupational therapist who encourages parents to use essential oils when it’s appropriate.
“A little girl who comes for all the therapies and preschool has a diagnosis that includes difficulty paying attention to any task and anxiety,” Bernie said. “Her mother and father use essential oils in a special mixture just for her to improve her attention and allow her to attempt the skills we are working on (to improve her fine motor skills).”
Josiah has had several surgeries, and Ninette has used diffused oils to help with his post-surgery recovery.
“The doctors at (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) saw he needed less morphine,” she said. “Diffusing essential oils really reduces the body’s pain response.”
She doesn’t claim her products can replace traditional medicine, and she has worked in partnership with Josiah’s doctors.
“We believe in medicine; we believe in antibiotics,” she said. “I see this as a complement to what doctors are already doing. We’ll consult with pharmacists. We tell families to talk to their pediatrician. Maybe these oils can help you take one less pill to manage pain or anxiety.”
She said her customers are diverse. Many are elderly, looking to manage pain or improve sleep or help with a relative with dementia. More than 50 percent are moms looking for help for their kids, especially kids with special needs.
“We saw early on the benefits of oils, especially with Josiah,” Marc said. “We saw it making a difference in our lives.”
The Jacksons want to make a difference in the lives of Schreiber families. They will offer a free workshop here on Wednesday, Feb. 21. The event will run from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
She will talk about what not to do, how to use them safely on the skin and mention a few options for some of the common parental challenges.
“Which oils are good for what,” she said. “My child has trouble focusing: What shoud I use?”
Parents looking for help for their child with autism or ADHD or sensory issues might want to come and hear what Lancaster’s essential oils guru has to say.
It took three years from the time she was referred until Luis was finally able to start receiving services in 2013. That’s how long the wait times were for speech therapy.
With her second son, Kevin, doctors detected hydrocephalus during the pregnancy, and he was born in 2013 with his own set of complications.
At 14 months old, when it was time for him to begin services at Schreiber, Velveth said Kevin was able to start almost immediately.
“Very different,” Velveth said. “I’ve told friends to come here for services, and they got right in, too.”
Whether the wait has been long or short, Velveth said the benefits of coming to Schreiber have been the same: amazing.
With Luis, at the time of his diagnosis at age 3, he was nonverbal. By the time he started at Schreiber, when he was 6, he still wasn’t speaking.
“‘Mama,’ ‘Dada,’ that was it,” Velveth said.
“She started working with him,” she said. “After two or three months, we could see he was paying attention and starting to understand directions. … Then he started saying things. Probably when he was 7, he was speaking.”
Luis is in fifth grade now, doing well in a classroom for students with autism.
“He’s a good kid,” Velveth said. “He’s learning to express himself. He gets along with other kids. He has started to draw and have an imagination. Miss Barbara is the angel that opened the door.”
“Doctors said he’d never walk or eat by himself,” Velveth said. “When we started here, he couldn’t sit. He would just lay in bed.”
He began his physical therapy at 14 months with Lisa Stachler Volk, who showed Velveth how to help Kevin sit and how to massage his legs to help improve his muscle tone. At 18 months, Kevin started to roll over. Then he was fitted with braces and started learning to stand.
He’s 4 now, and he walked from his stroller back to a recent therapy session with no assistance, although he still wears a brace to support his weaker left side. He also receives occupational therapy to reduce his anxiety about walking on different surfaces. His brain had difficulty processing going from grass to the mulch of a playground, for example.
“He used to cry and cry and wouldn’t do it,” she said. “Now he can do it. All these little things he’s doing, like going down a slide, they’re normal for other kids. They’re so amazing for us.”
She has seen him progress in other ways, too. He used to be anxious about different food textures and would only take liquids; now he’s learning to chew. He’s much calmer and more confident. He sleeps better.
All of which is to say: Schreiber and the Marin family found each other at the right time.
UPDATE, 10/23: The first 500 visitors to light one of our luminaries will receive a free Stroopie from Lancaster Stroopies. If you haven’t had one of these, yet, don’t wait. Come to Schreiber on Nov. 9, light a candle and get a Stroopie.
UPDATE, 10/12: We confirmed that we will have our Extra Give party at the Federal Taphouse, at the corner of Queen and Chestnut streets, and just two blocks from the big Extra Give party at Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square.
UPDATE, 10/19: We will be at the Federal Taphouse throughout the day on Nov. 17, starting when they open for lunch at 11:30 a.m. When you are out and about downtown that day, stop in for lunch, dinner or drinks, and take a minute to donate to Scheriber. FM97’s DC will be on hand to play music from noon to 6 p.m. If you come by after work, we’ll have live music by Jen and Brad Rhine from Blue Sky Falls from 6-7, followed by MOE Blues from 7:30-8:30.
UPDATE, 11/16: We gratefully acknowledge support from three companies providing Business Matches for this year’s Give: Atlee Hall, Mid-Atlantic ProTel and Medisys Solutions.
Step 3: Remember to give extra during the Extra Give. Your past support has meant so much to us, but the demand for our therapy services continues to surge. Every dollar you donate helps us serve as many children as possible.
Please consider donating to Schreiber during the Extra Give on Nov. 17. When you give extra, extraordinary things happen.
“Not yet,” came a voice from the side of the truck.
Then a moment later: “OK, now you can look.”
Amy and Michelina, a soon-to-be-10-year-old from Lancaster, walked slowly around the front of the truck. That’s when she saw the surprise.
Two small ponies, gentle brown and white ones named Finn and Valor.
She covered her mouth, but a quiet squeal of delight managed to escape. Michelina loves horses. She loves all animals, really. She has received occupational therapy at Schreiber for about two years, and Cami, a KPETS therapy dog, has been her constant companion.
KPETS volunteer Rhonda Taylor, who handles Cami, knew about Michelina’s love of horses and suggested to Amy the birthday surprise (her birthday is Sept. 30). Rhonda contacted Julie Good, who runs a Lancaster County horse farm and provides horses to KPETS for equine therapy. Julie said she could bring the ponies.
“(Schreiber) has a wonderful staff; you all are so good at what you do,” Mary said. “And working with KPETS has really helped open up Michelina.”
Mary said her granddaughter is on the autism spectrum and has post-traumatic stress disorder. Her parents were on drugs, Mary said, and Michelina was born addicted to drugs. Mary and took custody when her granddaughter was 3 months old.
Amy has been Michelina’s only therapist in her time at Schreiber.
“She’s made a lot of progress,” Amy said. “We’ve really been working on her with self care. Things like hair brushing and brushing her teeth and getting herself dressed. And we work on social skills, so we talk to people in the waiting room.”
“When she’s getting stressed, Cami will lay her head on her lap,” Amy said. “As long as (Michelina) can get through her social interactions, she should be able to do pretty well with her life.”
Just at that moment, Michelina finished putting a braid in Valor’s mane and gave him a goodbye hug. That connection might just be the way Michelina learns to live to her fullest potential, which is always the goal here at Schreiber.
“She relaxed when she’s around animals,” Amy said. “Maybe that’s what her future will hold.”
Beginning in infancy, LJ’s guardians noticed many delays in his development, and he was referred to Schreiber by a local psychologist. He began his time at Schreiber in OT about a year and a half ago. LJ recently began receiving speech therapy with Jeremy Ewell, who is helping LJ learn social cues and improve his focus. Jeremy noticed LJ’s difficulty in concentrating and staying on task and developed strategies to improve his level of focus.
By frequently switching tasks and using a visual calendar, LJ is able to better process what his end goals are, giving him more incentive to remain focused. This is just one example of the many tactics Jeremy uses to build LJ’s cognitive progression. But it doesn’t seem like work to LJ, Kathy said. He starts every Wednesday saying: “Today is my day to see Mr. Jeremy!”
In spite of his challenges, Kathy Steibnaecher, his grandmother, describes LJ as a happy, music-loving 5-year old.
“He loves Mickey Mouse, Captain America, Winnie the Pooh, swimming and trucks,” Kathy said. “He’s always quick to tell us he loves us, say thank you, and share… He’s an amazing little guy!”
In his time at Schreiber, Kathy has noticed significant improvements with LJ. Even though he still struggles to interact with other children, LJ is now able to play alongside them. Parallel play with others is a large stepping stone for LJ for the end goal of socialization, Jeremy said. Kathy has also noticed the progress LJ has made with his focus.
LJ’s type of autism allows him to understand and follow directions, and he is capable of other kinds of communication, placing him socially ahead of many kids with autism.
“He has a lot going for him,” Jeremy said.
Jeremy’s work with LJ is a good illustration of how our therapists team up with parents and guardians to give families the tools that allows kids to practice at home the skills they learn at Schreiber.
At Schreiber, our average reimbursement rate is 42 percent. That means for every $100 in charges we submit to insurance companies, we receive, on average, $42 in payment. Please support our work so that we can continue to provide services to LJ and the thousands of other children we see each year. Just visit our Giving page here, and make your donation today.