Pediatric

Schreiber mom: From advocate for others to advocate for son

Leo Katchur works with Schreiber OT intern Marli Hess, back, and speech-language pathologist Maddy Sova during a recent therapy appointment. Leo, 3, has been diagnosed with autism and is using a tablet to help build his language skills.

Amanda Katchur is a psychologist who has been an advocate for services that support children for a number of years. Now, she’s learning to advocate for her own child, and that’s a completely different experience.

It’s one thing to know professionally the impact that Schreiber’s services and Lancaster County’s Early Intervention program have on families. It’s another thing to see it personally.

Her daughter Bethany was diagnosed as an infant with torticollis, a condition in infants that causes a baby’s head to tilt constantly to one side. Thanks to the work of Schreiber therapists, Bethany’s torticollis is gone and she runs, jumps and dances just like any 6-year-old little girl, Amanda said.

Bethany’s little brother Leo, 3 years old, has an autism diagnosis, was born with mild hearing loss and also had some torticollis as an infant. The three issues combined have left him behind in several areas of development. When it was time for Leo to receive services through Early Intervention, at 6 months old, Amanda had no hesitation.

“I knew we wanted to come back (to Schreiber) because we had such a positive experience with Bethany,” Amanda said.

Leo has been in good hands his therapy services started. Catherine Donahue was his Schreiber’s Early Intervention specialist for home visits. Dorlas Riley was his speech-language pathologist. Denisha Roberts worked with him in physical therapy. And Bernie Hershey has been his occupational therapist.

I like to think that we’ve been fortunate to have, like, the dream team…, with all the experience they have with his issues.

AMANDA KATCHUR

“They were all really great,” Amanda said. “I like to think that we’ve been fortunate to have, like, the dream team to be quite honest with you, with all the experience they have with his issues.”

COVID has, at times, made the therapy more challenging, like when the family had to switch to telehealth services for a time. At those moments, she could see the lengths the Schreiber team would go to for a child.

When telehealth sessions switched back to in-person visits, the change and the lack of consistency caused some challenges for Leo, as it does for many kids on the autism spectrum.

“Bernie showed up at one point at our house in costume as Jessie from “Toy Story” to try to re-engage after telehealth with Leo a little bit,” Amanda said. “They just really always made an attempt (to find what) he was interested in and get into his world, which I appreciated so much.”

During a recent therapy session at Schreiber, Leo worked with Marli Hess, an intern in Occupational Therapy, and Maddy Sova, a speech-language pathologist. They were trying to help him become more comfortable with a different kind of food – in this case, a chicken nugget – and to improve his language skills by using a smart tablet to respond to questions.

“We are working on communication in whatever way Leo feels most comfortable,” Amanda said. “Today, you saw him working on some eating, because eating has been a struggle for us, too. So he’s been working on increasing his tolerance for different foods and different textures and things like that. But communication has been, I would say, the biggest one.”

Mom was impressed with the way Leo greeted a visitor to the session, smiling and waving. “He probably wouldn’t have done that six months ago,” she said.


EI services do make a difference

Mandy Kolb Lyons is a coordinator in Lancaster County’s Early Intervention services program. She sent this email to agencies that provide Early Intervention services after a recent presentation to the agencies by Amanda Katchur. Amanda presented at the PA Statewide Interagency Coordinating Council (SICC) meeting to share her family’s story and how Early Intervention supported them.

Here’s an excerpt from Mandy’s email:

“Amanda shared numerous examples of how you helped to coach, support, empower and guide her and her family. Amanda beamed as she shared the journey that her son and family had with Early Intervention and mentioned a few times how Early Intervention supported her entire family, including Leo’s big sister! Not only did Leo grow and progress throughout services, his entire family did. We can only hope that every family that participates in Early Intervention can walk away feeling similarly to how Amanda and her family did after participating in our services.”

First steps on a journey of recovery

Four-year-old Jack Teyssier works through a series of exercises each week at Schreiber. His physical therapy sessions include strengthening and stretching for his lower left leg, some core work and some myofascial release by Schreiber therapist Lisa Stachler-Volk.

Jack Teyssier, 4, finishes his physical therapy session with Schreiber PT Lisa Stachler-Volk.

Jack Teyssier, 4, finishes his physical therapy session with Schreiber PT Lisa Stachler-Volk.

It’s hard to tell what exactly Jack is dealing with until Lisa puts some kind of black brace-like device on Jack’s left ankle.

Jack has one of the rare disorders therapists at Schreiber see from time to time. In this case, he has myofibromatosis, a condition that causes benign tumors to grow anywhere in the body.

According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, most cases occur in young children and there can be a familial link. Jack’s mother Kara Teyssier said she had them on her leg and back; they were surgically removed when she was a baby. Her youngest son, Levi, also had one inside his cheek that was treated through chemotherapy and surgery.

It hasn’t been so simple with Jack.

“He has quite the medical history,” Kara said.

While Jack did his exercises with Lisa, Kara went through the list of Jack’s issues.

When he was born, he was diagnosed with pyloric atresia, an obstruction in the part of the stomach that leads to the small intestine. Doctors at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia repaired that through surgery, and they also found the first his benign tumors.

At one month, Kara said she and her husband, Ben, noticed Jack’s left foot was droopy. Another of these tumors had developed and was pressing on a nerve in his leg.

So Jack went through a course of chemotherapy, and Kara said most of the tumors have shrunk or disappeared. But the one in his leg had caused permanent damage to the nerve. and Jack had lost the ability to flex his foot normally.

From the time Jack was 7 or 8 months old, Schreiber therapists began working with him at home. That lasted about a year and a half, until the Teyssiers decided he was doing well enough with a brace on his left leg.

Over time, though, his doctors wanted to try and restore more flexibility in his foot. They recommended another surgery, this time to take a tendon from the bottom of his droopy left foot and move it to the top of the same foot.

That surgery happened in March 2019, and he started coming to Schreiber for physical therapy in April.

Lisa has worked on helping him walk better. Before the surgery, the brace kept his foot in a neutral position to help him walk. But he couldn’t flex his foot at all.

“The surgery helped,” Lisa said. “He couldn’t lift his foot at all when we started. Now, he can keep his foot in a neutral (not drooping) position without the brace.”

She has been working on improving the strength of his left leg; his foot tended to roll and he would walk on the side of his foot. He’s also better able to flex his foot up and down. How far he will eventually progress isn’t known.

He can run around and play just like any other 4 year old. He rides a bike without training wheels. When he walks, you can’t even tell he has any kind of a problem, Kara said.

“We have been pleased with his progress,” Kara said. “At home, he doesn’t even wear the brace a lot of the time. Long term, we don’t know if he’ll have to keep the brace. Time will tell what happens as he continues to grow and get stronger. We’re blown away with how far he’s come.”

Changes bring start of new era

Some of you probably already know that what we call Schreiber today has been around since 1936. In those 82 years, we have gone by several different names: The Society for Crippled Children and Adults, the National Easter Seals Society and, starting in 1994, Schreiber Pediatric Rehab Center of Lancaster County.

Now, we are excited to tell you about our new name and introduce our new logo.

The new logo for the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development. Logo design by Trump Tschudy Design, Lancaster.

In the nearly 25 years since we adopted our most recent name, Schreiber has experienced many changes and a lot of growth. We see more children than ever. We see kids with a wider array of diagnoses. We did a major expansion in 2006, and we have added new services, including aquatic therapy, thanks to our new pool, and the Circle of Friends Academy daycare center, which now accepts children as young as 6 weeks.

The staff and the board leadership of the center began to think that our name didn’t reflect the breadth of services we provide. While we still see many kids that you might expect to see at Schreiber, kids born with cerebral palsy or spina bifida, we also see lots of other kids whose challenges aren’t nearly as complex. They might have a minor speech delay or need a little help with their fine motor skills.

We also have a fair number of typically developing kids. They attend our S.T.A.R.S. Preschool or Circle of Friends. Or they come for swim lessons. Or they attend with their parents to learn baby signing or infant massage or kids’ yoga.

As our new mission statement reads: “We provide everything needed for all of life’s challenges, so that families and children can reach their dreams and vision. We see every child’s unique capabilities and help them achieve their fullest potential.”

The new mission statement guided the conversations about finding a new name. After numerous meetings during the strategic planning process of 2017, a stakeholder survey and a final review by the board, we will now be officially known as the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development.

We didn’t want our brand to send the message that we are fixing “broken” kids. We are helping any family seeking services so that their son or daughter can be their best selves.

And we felt it was important to emphasize our new name with a new logo, one that keeps the name Schreiber at the center of our identity.

So take in our new name: The Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development. Check out our new logo. And know that we will keep doing what we’ve tried to do for 82 years: Enriching lives. Giving hope. For all who need us, every day.

Support Schreiber for the Extra Give

We have a new name and a new logo, but we still rely on the generosity of the community to operate.

Please consider a gift to Schreiber during the Extraordinary Give on Nov. 16. Go to www.extragive.org anytime on Nov. 16, find Schreiber’s listing and donate. It’s that easy. And every dollar supports the children of Schreiber.

A Schreiber kiddo grows into a young artist

Maria Corley recognized pretty early on that her son Malcolm was different.

His paternal grandmother was a child psychologist, so she had experience with what typical childhood development looked like, Maria said.

“She noticed that he lined things up for me,” Maria said. “She saw the speech delays. The eye contact thing.”

Malcolm Corley doing what has come easily for him since he was a little boy — making art.

An evaluation led to a diagnosis: PDD-NOS, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified.

He was on the autism spectrum.

Malcolm was not quite 4 years old.

He started with Schreiber around the same time, first via home visits through Early Intervention then through appointments at the Center for therapy.

Emily Beddow was his occupational therapist almost from the beginning.

“He was 3, maybe 4, when I started seeing him,” Emily said. “We didn’t know if he’d even be able to write, (because of) the way he held his pencil. He’s really come a long way.”

He’s 19 now, tall and thin, like his mother. And he has artistic talents that started when he was young and have stayed with him into his young adulthood. When he was about 3, he started drawing images from the television show “Blues Clues.”

“Then he started doing Dr. Seuss pictures,” Maria said, “copying from ‘ABC’ and ‘Horton Hears a Who.’ When he started school, he had art class. You could see some talent there.”

Through school, his artistic talent continued to develop. He has had two solo art shows, the first through Millersville University’s Office of Visual and Performing Arts. That led to the second, at the Emerald Foundation’s Emerging Artist series.

Malcolm hand paints one of his decorative tiles.

At the same time, he has quietly launched a small business, Malcom’s Tiles, creating hand-decorated tiles that has helped him earn some money. He sold the tiles at the Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 and at the National Autism Conference and raised enough money to pay for a trip he really wanted to take: to see the Dutch amusement park Juliana Toren.

“He found the park on YouTube, and he really wanted to go,” Maria said. “He wanted to go so he could hug the two mouse mascots.”

The importance of the experience wasn’t lost on Maria.

“I’m trying to impress on him the fact that making money is helpful,” she said. “If he has some sort of a job where he can also do art, that would be good.”

These are the things you think about when you have a child on the autism spectrum who is about to enter the adult world.

He was discharged from therapy a few years ago, but he still is part of the Schreiber family. He still attends Club 625 outings.

“It’s an important social outlet for him,” Maria said. “That’s something he really looks forward to, socializing with his peer group.”

And Emily and Lisa Christoffel, his speech-language pathologist, both keep in touch. They attended his art shows to show support.

“Some kids and some families leave more of an impression on you,” Lisa said. “I saw Malcolm for more than 10 years. He’s a special kid, and his mom has done such a great job with him.”

That feeling is definitely mutual.

“The caring I’ve felt from the people who have worked with him has been remarkable,” Maria said. “I could see the therapists were really invested in him as a person. When I brought him here, I didn’t even know what his voice sounded like, he was that non-verbal.

“From almost having no language at all, he has learned phrases that allow him to communicate and build relationships. He’s come a long way, definitely.”

The journey isn’t over by any stretch. Maria has the questions all parents have about their kids as they grow up: What will happen to him? How will he take care of himself? Will he have friends? It’s all just a so… unknowable with Malcolm.

“I’m not really sure what he thinks about friends and adult relationships,” Maria said. “Making friends is difficult. He’s interested in girls. He seems happy. But maybe he’s lonely and I just don’t know.

“We’ve talked about the fact that I’m not always going to be here, so he needs to learn to do things for himself.”

Maria will keep working with him on that, teaching him how to advocate for himself, helping him grow his art business. And like any other parent, she will hope for the best.

Maria Corley is a performing pianist and organist who plays concerts at venues around central Pennsylvania. She is also half of Duo Chiaroscuro with cellist Sara Male, frequently offering Silence Optional concerts for people on the autism spectrum. She has two children, Malcolm, 19, and a daughter, Kiana, 21. She lives in East Hempfield Township.

Three of Malcolm’s recent pieces of art: a Lancaster County landscape, a painting of his sister Kiana, and a self-portrait done as a line drawing.

One woman’s personal connection to Edna Schreiber

Barbara Willders Tomlinson heard recently there was a photo of her as a girl on the wall at Schreiber, and she stopped by the center recently to see it.

Barbara Willders Tomlinson of Lancaster poses in front of a photo of herself and Edna Schreiber. Barbara had polio as a teen and received therapy from Edna.

“There I am,” she said, pointing up at a photos that’s part of the large Edna Schreiber piece that hangs in our main waiting area.

Barbara Willders is 82 now. She grew up in Lancaster and was slated to go to the George Washington School for seventh grade in 1949.

Then polio interrupted. She was 13 years old.

That year, 1949, was six years before the polio vaccine, and Barbara was one of 947 cases of the disease in Pennsylvania out of more than 42,000 cases nationwide, the second highest number on record, according to archival statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Barbara said she spent two weeks in the hospital and recuperated at home for most of the summer. She was able to attend school when students headed back in September.

“I was not paralyzed, but I walked funny afterward,” she said. “They used to let me go down the stairs first, by myself. And I had to wear these ugly brown shoes with big straps for about a year.”

She worked with Edna Schreiber weekly, using the Sister Kenny hot blankets that Edna had incorporated into her therapy work to restore muscle tone and movement.

“I would be wrapped up from my neck down to my feet,” Barbara said.

Her therapy continued through her time in seventh grade. She said Edna would pick her up at school, and they would go to what was then known as the Society for Crippled Children and Adults, where Edna worked.

“She was very kind and sweet,” Barbara said. “She would lay me down and have me do things, see how my legs were working.”

Edna Schreiber works with Barbara Willders in 1949.

That’s pretty much what’s happening in the photo: Barbara is sitting on a table, and Edna is helping her straighten her right leg. Barbara is wearing a plaid skirt and a white blouse.

“That’s probably what I wore to school that day,” she said.

I helped her into a chair to pose for a picture. She uses a walker, but it’s not because of any lingering effects of the polio. An inner ear problem has left her with occasional dizziness and difficulties with balance.

She looked up at the photo again. She said she worked with Edna for about a year, and by eighth grade, she was mostly OK.

“I was one of the lucky ones,” she said.

Seventy years later, she was able to see how the work of Edna Schreiber continues. And she was able to see her own place in that history.

Coming to Schreiber: Essential advice on essential oils

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.

Schreiber Physical Therapist Megan Campbell Roland works with Josiah Jackson in Schreiber’s therapy pool. Josiah was the inspiration behind his parents’ essential oils business, Josiah’s Oils.

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.”‘

Josiah has Down Syndrome. He has benefitted from essential oils that bolster his immune system and help with pain management after surgery.

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.”

Marc Jackson wraps up Josiah after a session the pool. Marc said essential oils have improved Josiah’s quality of life.

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.

Shorter wait times are a boost for Marin family

Velveth has two sons. The oldest, Luis, is 10. Velveth, answering questions with the help of Susan Fisher, our translator, said she heard about Schreiber from her pediatrician after Luis was diagnosed with autism when he was 3.

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.

He started in Speech-Language Therapy with Barbara Miller — “Miss Barbara,” Velveth called her.

“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.”

Kevin has had a different path. His hydrocephaly caused complications that made it difficult to diagnose him. Eventually, he was diagnosed with Chiari malformations, a condition in which parts of the brain protrude into the spinal column and some of the nerve tissue that connects the two sides of his brain were missing.

“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.

The Brenneman boys are all Schreiber boys

“I love it here,” Dani said. “It’s so good here. Everybody gets you. They understand what you’re going through. And everybody is so friendly and so accepting.”

Miles eventually received occupational and speech therapy, along with continuing his PT. He was with Jay Graver in preschool for two years, and he was joined the second year by his younger brother Levi.

“Miles was here three times a week for preschool and therapy, Levi was here twice a week,” said Dani, who lives in West Lampeter Township with her husband, David, and the boys. “We were coming every day for that year.”
Miles eventually graduated from preschool to start kindergarten. He’s 6 now. Levi and Isaac still attend Mr. Jay’s preschool.

“When we were looking around for preschools for Miles, I liked the emphasis here on diversity and that there are children of all abilities,” said Dani, who has an associate degree from Harrisburg Area Community College in early childhood education. “I liked it so much I’ve sent all my boys here.”

Well, almost all. The youngest, Asher, is only 4 months old. He comes along when Mom drops off Levi and Isaac, so he’s getting to know Schreiber, too. Even if it’s only as the place where he gets his morning feeding and a nap.

Soon enough, though, Mr. Jay can probably expect to see the fourth Brenneman boy come through.

The Extraordinary Give is coming

Step 1: Join us here at the Center on Thursday, Nov. 9, for Give Thanks for Schreiber Night. Starting at 5 p.m., we will have hundreds of luminaries set out around the outside of the campus. Inside, we’ll have a bunch of fun stuff planned, from crafts and games to face painting and pumpkin decorating. So stop by for some fall family fun, then take a moment to light a candle in honor of or in memory someone special with a connection to Schreiber. And we’ll have a special treat for you to take home with you, we promise.

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.
Step 2: Mark your calendars for Friday, Nov. 17, and bookmark Schreiber’s donation page at www.extragive.org. Here’s our donation page. The giving starts at midnight, and the more donations we receive between midnight and 3 a.m., the better our chances for being at the top of the Extra Give leaderboard. And be ready to share your donation on social media (and tag us on Facebook and Twitter): Post about your gift with #helpschreiberkids, tag friends to encourage them to give, and Like and Comment when you see updates. And we’ll again be downtown on the day of the Give with our friends from FM97. In past years, you could find us at Lancaster Dispensing Co. With the fire there recently, we will be in a different spot (details to come!).

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.

Happy birthday, Michelina

“Can we see, yet?” Amy asked.

“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.
Mary Riley, Michelina’s grandmother and legal guardian, signed off on the idea, and that’s what brought all of them to Schreiber’s parking lot Tuesday afternoon.

“(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.”

She’s come a long way. To stop and talk to a grown up would have been stressful a year ago. Now, she handles it well. Of course, it helped that Cami was nearby.

“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.”
When you make a contribution to Schreiber, you help us do the work that makes it possible for children like Michelina to reach her fullest potential. Please consider a gift to Schreiber today.