Speech therapy

Empowering Avery: The Impact of Early Intervention Speech Therapy

Born at a mere 29 weeks, Avery Berry spent the initial 57 days of her life at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Women’s and Babies, where Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) doctors, nurses, and her family rallied around her until she was strong enough to go home.

For her first two years her parents enveloped her in a world of language, speaking, singing, and reading to her. Despite cooing and babbling back, at two years old, Avery still showed no sign of language development. Concerned but undeterred, her parents and physicians explored Early Intervention speech therapy options for her.

Avery’s mom, Angie, believes that their NICU experience with CHOP doctors contributed to their swift acceptance into Early Intervention services. Once accepted, they chose to pursue therapy at the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development.

Avery’s first year of speech therapy took place within the familiar confines of her own home three times a week, under the guidance of her therapist, Cassie. Her family’s primary goal was simple: to help Avery find words. While her parents diligently worked on baby sign language to bridge the language gap, their ultimate hope was to witness her communicate with the world.

Avery with Speech Therapist Cassie

Angie reminisces, “While she wasn’t necessarily shy, she struggled to connect with kids her age due to her communication limitations.” But through play-based therapies with Cassie and consistent practice with her parents, Avery embarked on her journey to building her language skills. Cassie’s creative and ever-changing repertoire of toys and games kept Avery engaged and excited during each session.

And then, one day, it happened. Avery uttered her first word – “Moo”. Both Angie and Cassie couldn’t help but shed tears of joy. Avery, who had once been unable to form words, had taken her first monumental step. Shortly after, she astounded them by saying ‘meow,’ a challenging word for any young speaker, let alone someone who had just begun their speech therapy journey.

Between therapy sessions Avery’s parents worked with her on every technique that Cassie modeled for them. One of the things that Angie believes helped Avery most was a technique called Visual Biofeedback, or mirror-play. Everyday Angie and Avery would stand in front of a mirror in their home and talk to each other. This allowed Avery to become more aware of her own facial expressions and speech sound productions, and eventually led to her gaining more voluntary control of her facial and oral structures.

Angie reflects, “Avery never became frustrated or angry about her inability to articulate her needs because she received the time and attention she needed, along with the support of her therapists and us.”

Avery with Dad and Mom

Once she aged out of Early Intervention, Avery started to attend Schreiber Center for speech therapy and began working with Becca, who she sees weekly. She is also enrolled in our S.T.A.R.S. Preschool and loves her teachers Mr. Jay and Ms. Michele. Angie proudly boasts “After two years of speech therapy at Schreiber Avery’s self-confidence with social interactions has sky rocketed. Now that she can speak and communicate effectively her confidence has soared, she’s made a ton of friends in preschool, and is comfortable expressing herself.”

When Avery isn’t in speech therapy or preschool, she and her mom love going to the park to play, taking little shopping trips to Target, and going to the library to check out new books to read together. At only four years old, Avery has become quite a little bookworm, and while her parents still read to her often, she loves being able to read to them too.

She and dad love playing outside, taking walks, and working on projects. She wants to be a hands-on helper for all projects in and out of the house. Her parents say they wouldn’t be surprised if Avery grew up to become an engineer because of her curiosity about how things are made and how they work. To encourage her creativity and curiosity every few months she gets a ‘Discovery Kit’ in the mail that includes a craft or project that she and her dad work on together.

Hands on project with Avery and her Dad

One lesson that Angie learned through Avery’s therapy journey is that “Comparison is the thief of joy” so while she is incredibly proud of Avery’s reading skills and ingenuity, she also understands firsthand how difficult it is to watch other children develop on a different timeline than your own. “We tell Avery all the time that she is right on time with her own journey.” Angie shares. Which we think is a perfect reminder for us all, not to compare ourselves or our children to anyone else.

It’s difficult for parents and families who aren’t going through pediatric therapy services for their children to understand what it’s like, but Avery’s parents found community at the Schreiber Center through Schreiber’s hosted events and by bonding with other families in the waiting room. Angie advises any parent who is considering pediatric therapy for their own children to “Do it! The earlier the better and don’t compare your journey, or your child’s progress against anyone else.”


Help Schreiber Clients like Avery receive the care they need, consider donating in support of our Kids’ Care Fund, a long and short term savings account used to cover the costs of uncompensated care.

As a nationally recognized pediatric facility, the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development provides family-centered education and therapy programs for infants, children and adolescents with disabilities, developmental delays, and acquired injuries. Our goal-oriented approach maximizes each child’s ability to function independently within the community.

ExtraGive Funds Pediatric Therapy at Schreiber

Every child deserves the opportunity to lead a healthy and fulfilling life. At the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development, we are committed to ensuring that every child, regardless of their abilities or financial circumstances, has access to the quality care they need.

The ExtraGive event (https://www.extragive.org/) is a remarkable opportunity for us to come together as a community and make a significant impact on the lives of children who rely on our pediatric therapy programs. Your generous donations during the ExtraGive event will directly benefit our occupational, physical, speech, and mental and behavioral health therapy programs, as well as our “Kids’ Care Fund” designed to cover uncompensated care expenses.

Pediatric Occupational Therapy: Feeding Program

Pediatric occupational therapy is a crucial component of the services we provide at Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development. Many children face challenges related to feeding and nutrition, and our goal is to support them in developing the necessary skills for a healthy diet. Your donations will help us establish a new feeding program that will provide personalized support to children with various feeding difficulties.

Feeding issues can be a source of tremendous stress for families, and your contributions will make it possible for us to offer specialized therapy, equipment, and resources to help these children develop the skills they need to thrive.

Pediatric Physical Therapy: Medical Mobility Equipment

Children with mobility impairments often require specialized equipment to enhance their mobility and independence. The funds donated during the ExtraGive event will be instrumental in acquiring essential medical mobility equipment for our pediatric physical therapy program.

These devices can be life-changing for children, enabling them to participate in everyday activities and improving their overall quality of life. Your support will help us ensure that no child in central PA is left without the necessary equipment to navigate the world around them.

Pediatric Speech Therapy: Communication Devices

Communication is a fundamental aspect of a child’s development, and for some children, it can be particularly challenging. Our pediatric speech therapy program is dedicated to helping children develop their communication skills, and your donations will play a pivotal role in achieving this goal.

We aim to provide augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, speech-generating devices (SGDs), and other assistive communication tools to children who need them. These devices empower children to express themselves, connect with others, and engage with the world in meaningful ways.

Mental and Behavioral Health Therapy: After-School Social Programs

At Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development, we recognize the importance of mental and behavioral health in a child’s overall well-being. Your donations will support our after-school social programs, including the popular “After-School Lego Club,” designed specifically for children with autism.

These programs offer a safe and supportive environment where children can develop social skills, build friendships, and gain confidence. Your contributions will enable us to expand these programs, reaching even more children who can benefit from them.

The “Kids’ Care Fund”: Ensuring Access to Care for All

In addition to directly supporting our therapy programs, your generous donations during the ExtraGive event will be added to our “Kids’ Care Fund.” This fund serves as a safety net, ensuring that all disabled children receive the care they need, regardless of their families’ financial circumstances.

The “Kids’ Care Fund” is a savings account that bridges the gap between what private insurance and Medicaid supplements cover and the actual cost of care. At Schreiber Pediatric, we have always made the promise that no child will be turned away, and your contributions help us fulfill this commitment.

Your support during the ExtraGive event will have a profound and lasting impact on the lives of the children we serve through our pediatric therapy programs at Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development. Whether it’s helping a child improve their feeding skills, providing essential mobility equipment, enabling communication, or fostering social connections, your generosity makes it all possible.

Furthermore, your donations will contribute to the “Kids’ Care Fund,” ensuring that no child is denied the care they deserve due to financial constraints. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of Schreiber kids and their families, offering hope, support, and a brighter future. Join us in transforming lives and creating a more inclusive and compassionate community for all children in central PA. Donate during the ExtraGive event and be a part of something truly extraordinary.

Down Syndrome Awareness Month

This month we have the opportunity to raise public awareness about the condition Down Syndrome, as we advocate for the inclusion and acceptance of people with Down Syndrome. It is an unfortunate fact that people with Down Syndrome continue to face stereotypes and misconceptions about their abilities. We urge you to take this month to learn more about this condition and help us to spread the message of acceptance and respect for all people with Down Syndrome all year round.

What is Down Syndrome?

Down Syndrome is a genetic condition that occurs when a person is born with an extra chromosome. People are typically born with 46 chromosomes, but a person with Down Syndrome has an extra copy or part of an extra copy or chromosome 21.

There are three different types of Down Syndrome, and they are all dependent on how the extra chromosome 21 presents within the diagnosed person.

The most common type of Down Syndrome is called Trisomy 21, and about 95% of people who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome are diagnosed with this type. Trisomy 21 means that each cell within the body has three copies of chromosome 21 instead of the usual two copies.

The second most common type of Down Syndrome is called Translocation Down Syndrome and only about 3% of people diagnosed with Down Syndrome have this type. Translocation Down Syndrome occurs when an extra part or a whole extra chromosome 21 is present but attached ‘trans-located’ to a different chromosome, rather than being separate as is the case of Trisomy 21.

The least common type of Down Syndrome is called Mosaic Down Syndrome and only 2% of people who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome have this type. Mosaic Down Syndrome means that some of the cells in the body have three copies of chromosome 21, but other cells in the body still only have the typical two copies. Because only some of the cells in the body contain this additional chromosome this type of Down Syndrome presents less dominantly in physical features than the other two.

How do I know if my child has Down Syndrome?

About 6,000 babies are born with Down Syndrome in the US every year: that’s about 1 in every 700 babies. Down Syndrome can be detected in utero with screening tests and/or diagnostic tests. Screening tests can tell you if your pregnancy has a higher or lower chance of resulting in a baby with Down Syndrome, but they do not provide an absolute diagnosis. Diagnostic tests on the other hand, can typically detect whether a baby will have Down Syndrome. Diagnostic tests can be risky and are not generally performed until after a positive screening test. They include Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) which examines the material from the placenta, Amniocentesis which examines the amniotic fluid, and Percutaneous umbilical blood sampling (PUBS) which examines the blood from the umbilical cord. Each of these tests look for changes in the chromosomes that would indicate a Down Syndrome diagnosis.

What causes Down Syndrome?

Researchers know that Down Syndrome occurs when a person is born with an extra chromosome 21, but they are unsure how or why the extra chromosome forms. Many researchers believe that there are several different factors that play a role in whether the extra chromosome 21 will form in utero, but they are not entirely sure what those factors are. It is known that the likelihood of a baby being born with Down Syndrome increases with a mother’s age, but because more women give birth before they turn 35, more babies with Down Syndrome are born to women under 35 years of age. Nothing that a parent does during pregnancy is known to cause Down Syndrome.

What are the complications of Down Syndrome?

About half of people with Down Syndrome also have a congenital heart defect. They are also more prone to hearing loss, ear infections, obstructive sleep apnea, respiratory issues, eye diseases, poor eyesight, Alzhemer’s disease, leukemia, thyroid disorders and intestinal blockages at birth that require surgery.

In addition to the physical complications that can come along with Down Syndrome, it can also cause intellectual and developmental symptoms that can lead to cognitive impairment. Similar to the physical complications these symptoms can range from mild to moderate and include short attention span, poor judgement, impulsive behavior, slow learning, and delayed language and speech development.

What is the treatment for Down Syndrome?

Making sure that a child with Down Syndrome receives services early in life will help them to improve their physical and intellectual abilities and ensure that they reach their full potential into adulthood. Most of the services recommended for children with Down Syndrome focus specifically on helping them minimize the effects of any intellectual or developmental symptoms the condition is responsible for. Early intervention services include speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.

These therapies can be beneficial to children with Down Syndrome past the years of early intervention as well. Each person with Down Syndrome has different talents, and they all have the ability to thrive. Down Syndrome is a lifelong condition and children with Down Syndrome may need extra help or attention in school, but with the proper treatment plan and early intervention many people with Down Syndrome are able to be mainstreamed and attend regular classes with their peers.

If you child has been diagnosed with Down Syndrome and you are interested in learning more about how Schreiber’s Pediatric Therapies can help your child visit: http://www.schreiberpediatric.org/therapy-services/

As a nationally recognized pediatric facility, the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development provides family-centered education and therapy programs for infants, children and adolescents with disabilities, developmental delays, and acquired injuries. Our goal-oriented approach maximizes each child’s ability to function independently within the community.

Early Intervention for Deaf Children

Communication is essential for human interaction. Unfortunately, Deaf children face challenges in communication that can significantly affect their development. The good news is, early intervention during their infancy and toddler years can greatly lessen these communication barriers with the hearing world.

By providing specialized assistance in these critical early years, we have the opportunity to guide them towards a better future. From acquiring language skills to integrating socially, early intervention plays a crucial role in shaping their development.

Starting Early: Laying the Foundation

Detecting and addressing hearing loss early is crucial to establish a solid learning foundation for Deaf infants and toddlers. At Schreiber, we take pride in minimizing waiting times for children to be assessed by our dedicated pediatric therapists. Identifying the needs of Deaf infants and children promptly and offering appropriate support enhances their developmental trajectory. Early intervention acts as the key that unlocks their potential, equipping them with the tools to navigate communication effectively.

Communication Choices: Empowering Families

Empowering families to select communication methods for their Deaf children is pivotal to their success. Families can opt for American Sign Language (ASL), speech development, or a combination of approaches. By tailoring their approach to suit their child’s individual needs and preferences, families can enhance the likelihood of their child’s success.

Qualified Professionals: Guiding Growth

Based on the chosen communication method, Schreiber’s speech therapists collaborate with Deaf children to overcome communication barriers. These therapists recognize that communication extends beyond words; it encompasses self-expression, understanding, and building meaningful connections. Using innovative techniques and compassionate care, our therapists empower Deaf children to confidently navigate the world of communication.

Individualized Plans: Unleashing Potential

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution in early intervention for Deaf children. Schreiber’s speech therapists acknowledge the uniqueness of each child’s journey and create personalized intervention plans that encompass a variety of strategies. These plans cater to each child’s strengths and needs, ranging from fostering proficiency in American Sign Language (ASL) to enhancing speech development. Recognizing that progress isn’t linear, Schreiber’s speech therapists provide a supportive environment where children can explore different communication avenues at their own pace.

A Pathway and A Promise

Early intervention not only bridges communication gaps but also establishes a strong foundation for lifelong learning and success. As we advocate for inclusive and accessible child development approaches, it’s crucial for parents, caregivers, educators, and healthcare professionals to collaborate to ensure that every Deaf infant and toddler receives the necessary support to thrive on their unique journey. Early intervention isn’t merely a pathway; it’s a promise of a brighter future for every Deaf child.

If you child is Deaf and you are interested in learning more about how Schreiber’s Pediatric Therapies can help your child visit: http://www.schreiberpediatric.org/therapy-services/

As a nationally recognized pediatric facility, the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development provides family-centered education and therapy programs for infants, children and adolescents with disabilities, developmental delays, and acquired injuries. Our goal-oriented approach maximizes each child’s ability to function independently within the community.

How to Support the Behavioral Health of Deaf Children

Deaf children, like all children, deserve every opportunity to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. However, they often encounter unique challenges that can impact their behavioral health and overall well-being. From social isolation to academic struggles, the mental health journey for Deaf children can be complex. This post will explore the various behavioral health concerns Deaf children may face and look at different strategies to provide the support they need.

Understanding the Challenges

Social Isolation and Peer Exclusion: Communication barriers can lead Deaf children to feel isolated and make it difficult for them to form connections with their peers. They may find themselves on the outskirts of social interactions, leading to feelings of loneliness and exclusion.

Coping with Stigmas and Misconceptions: Deafness is often misunderstood, leading to stigmatization and misconceptions. These misunderstandings can impact a Deaf child’s self-esteem and self-worth.

Anxiety and Depression: The frustration of miscommunication and the pressure to fit in can contribute to anxiety and depression among Deaf children.

Academic Struggles: Inaccessible educational environments and inadequate support for children who are deaf, can lead to their academic struggles. These struggles can cause additional stress and have a negative impact on mental health.

Miscommunication within Families: Communication barriers between Deaf children and their hearing family members can lead to misunderstandings and strained relationships. Without a support system at home, their mental health can quickly decline.

Struggles with Self-Identity and Self-Esteem: Deaf children may grapple with their identity, especially when they feel caught between the Deaf and hearing worlds.

Lack of Access to Mental Health Services: Limited access to mental health services that cater to the unique needs and communication preferences of Deaf children can further exacerbate these challenges.

Strategies for Support

Identify & Encourage: Early intervention is key. By addressing potential issues early on and teaching children who are deaf coping skills and emotional regulation techniques, we can encourage Deaf children to embrace their identity and build self-confidence.

Effective Communication: We strive to ensure that Deaf children have access to communication methods that suit them. You can help by educating yourself and others about Deaf culture and communication strategies to foster understanding.

Inclusive Education: Advocating for inclusive education that allows Deaf children to learn alongside their hearing peers helps minimize social isolation. By implementing anti-bullying programs you can also help prevent and address bullying of children who are deaf.

Peer Support & Role Models: It’s important to create opportunities for Deaf children to connect with peers who share similar experiences. In introducing them to successful Deaf role models you can also help spark their inspiration and guide them to success.

Mental Health Services: Ensuring access to mental health services is one of the best things you can do to support the behavioral health of Deaf children. Specifically those that cater to Deaf children’s communication preferences. Be sure to provide information about these services in accessible formats.

Creating an Inclusive Environment

Supporting the behavioral health of Deaf children requires a community effort. By approaching their challenges with empathy and understanding, we can create environments where they can thrive. Let’s work together to build a world where Deaf children are empowered to achieve their full potential and lead emotionally healthy lives.

If you child is Deaf and you are interested in learning more about how Schreiber’s Pediatric Therapies can help your child visit: http://www.schreiberpediatric.org/therapy-services/

As a nationally recognized pediatric facility, the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development provides family-centered education and therapy programs for infants, children and adolescents with disabilities, developmental delays, and acquired injuries. Our goal-oriented approach maximizes each child’s ability to function independently within the community.

The Challenges Of Being Deaf In A Hearing School

School can be a difficult space for any child to navigate, but when you add the additional challenge of being deaf, the difficulties only grow. By shining a light on the unique challenges that children who are deaf encounter in school we hope to help minimize them.

The Communication Barrier: A Key Obstacle

One of the most significant challenge that Deaf children face in school is the communication barrier. This barrier extends beyond the classroom, affecting interactions with both peers and teachers. Deaf children often encounter difficulties in fully understanding and engaging with lessons due to limited access to auditory information. This, in turn, can lead to academic delays, as their access to information is restricted.

Furthermore, a lack of awareness and training among teachers about the specific needs of deaf children can increase these challenges. Without proper training, educators might struggle to adapt their teaching methods to accommodate different learning styles and communication preferences. The result is that the potential of deaf students may go unrecognized and underdeveloped.

Social Isolation and the Emotional Impact

Education is not just about gaining knowledge; it also shapes a person’s social development. For children who are deaf, this can be a double-edged sword. Limited communication opportunities can isolate them from their hearing peers, making it difficult to form friendships and engage in extracurricular activities, clubs, and sports. A traditional classroom settings might not provide the necessary environment for effective communication, which can lead to a sense of isolation.

The consequences of such isolation are significant. Deaf children may face bullying and teasing due to their differences, which can lead to emotional distress and lower self-esteem. The lack of social interaction can hinder their emotional well-being and overall growth.

Access to Support Services and Inclusive Education

Access to appropriate support services is necessary to help mitigate these challenges. Sign language interpreters and note-takers help ensure effective communication and learning for deaf students. However, these services are not always available or properly implemented in educational institutions.

Inclusive education, which ensures all students receive equitable opportunities for learning and participation, is a cornerstone for breaking down barriers. Creating an environment that fosters inclusivity goes beyond just providing services—it entails changing attitudes and practices, and embracing the unique perspectives and strengths that each student brings.

The Power of Sign Language

A key solution to bridging the communication gap lies in the widespread adoption of American Sign Language (ASL). ASL is not just a language; it’s a pathway to breaking down communication barriers and fostering understanding between deaf and hearing individuals. By promoting ASL as a fundamental skill, we can lay the groundwork for a more inclusive and supportive educational experience for deaf children.

Building an Inclusive Future

In celebration of the International Week of the Deaf, it’s crucial to remember that the challenges faced by deaf children in school are not insurmountable. Through appropriate accommodations, specialized support services, comprehensive teacher training, and the promotion of sign language, we can create an environment where all children, regardless of their hearing ability, have equal access to quality education and social integration.

If you child is Deaf and you are interested in learning more about how Schreiber’s Pediatric Therapies can help your child visit: http://www.schreiberpediatric.org/therapy-services/

As a nationally recognized pediatric facility, the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development provides family-centered education and therapy programs for infants, children and adolescents with disabilities, developmental delays, and acquired injuries. Our goal-oriented approach maximizes each child’s ability to function independently within the community.

12 Communication Milestones to Look for in Deaf Children

When it comes to the developmental journey of babies and children who are deaf, American Sign Language (ASL) communication milestones play an important role. Knowing what unique milestones to look for in babies, toddlers, and children who are deaf, allows caregivers to better understand the progression of communication skills. This article outlines 12 communication milestones caregivers of deaf children should look for to help guide their children on their unique communication journey through ASL.

Birth-6 Months: Building the Visual Foundation

1. Visual Tracking: From birth to six months, babies who are deaf begin to visually track moving objects and people. This foundational skill paves the way for their engagement in sign language communication.

2. Eye Contact: Establishing eye contact with caregivers and responding to visual cues is crucial for effective communication in ASL. Babies who are deaf develop this ability, enabling meaningful interactions.

3. Attention to Visual Stimuli: Infants who are deaf often display heightened attentiveness to colorful objects and gestures. This is because they rely on their sense of sight for communication input.

6-9 Months: Early Gestures and Interaction

4. Early Communication Gestures: Deaf babies might initiate simple gestures like waving “bye-bye” or raising their arms to be picked up. They could also display signs of wanting more, pointing at objects, or imitating gestures.

5. Initiating and Responding to Gestures: Babies who are deaf begin building the foundation for back-and-forth communication by both initiating their gestures to express needs or interests and responding to gestures from caregivers.

8-12 Months: Transition to First Signs

6. First Signs: The transition from gestures to recognizable signs like “milk,” “eat,” or “mom” starts around 8-12 months old. These initial signs become the building blocks for more intricate communication.

7. Understanding and Following Directions: Deaf babies gradually grasp the ability to comprehend and follow simple sign language directions like “come here” or “give me.”

12-36 Months: Forming Complex Communication

8. Combining Signs: Toddlers who are deaf begin combining signs to form two-word phrases between 1 and 3 years old. This progression allows them to express more complex thoughts and desires.

9. Expressing Preferences and Desires: As toddlers learn more ASL, they use signs to voice preferences, wants, and dislikes. This allows them to increase their ability to actively engage in conversations.

10. Narrative Skills: As they progress and broaden their signing vocabulary children who are deaf are able to convey simple stories and describe events using ASL, nurturing their narrative skills.

3+ Years: Maturing Communication Abilities

11. Understanding and Using Complex Syntax: As children who are deaf grow, their ASL skills evolve to include more complex sentence structures and grammatical features, enhancing their overall communication abilities.

12. Participating in Group Conversations: Proficiency in group conversations, topic tracking, and turn-taking is a significant milestone for children who are deaf using ASL. This skill underscores their ability to engage actively in social settings.

Remember that every child follows their own developmental path. Early exposure to ASL, consistent interaction, and access to a supportive environment are all important to helping babies, toddlers, and children who are deaf develop ASL skills. Celebrating these communication milestones helps to foster a culture of inclusivity, understanding, and effective communication for all.

If you child is Deaf and you are interested in learning more about how Schreiber’s Pediatric Therapies can help your child visit: http://www.schreiberpediatric.org/therapy-services/

As a nationally recognized pediatric facility, the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development provides family-centered education and therapy programs for infants, children and adolescents with disabilities, developmental delays, and acquired injuries. Our goal-oriented approach maximizes each child’s ability to function independently within the community.

How to Communicate with the Deaf Community

In a world that strives for diversity and inclusivity, it’s essential to recognize and celebrate different cultures and communities. Today marks the beginning of the International Week of the Deaf, a time dedicated to fostering understanding and connection with the Deaf community. This presents a wonderful opportunity to delve into the realm of inclusivity and explore some invaluable tips for engaging meaningfully with people who are Deaf.

Discovering the World of Sign Language

Taking the time to learn a few basic American Sign Language (ASL) signs and gestures is one of the most meaningful steps you can take to embrace inclusivity and engage with the Deaf community. You may think that learning an entirely new language sounds daunting, but taking the time to master even a few fundamental signs can go a long way in bridging the communication gap between the hearing and the Deaf.

Eye Contact, Facial Expressions, and Personal Space

Maintaining consistent eye contact when communicating with anyone is respectful, but especially important in conversations with people who are Deaf. When Deaf people talk to each other they are most often maintaining eye contact. While a hearing person may only see hands forming ASL signs, when it comes to communicating using ASL facial expressions convey tone, emotion, and context. Because facial expressions play a crucial role in sign language, it is important to make sure that when you are communicating with a person who is Deaf your face is well lit and able to be seen easily. As a visual language ASL also requires additional personal space, and maintaining that space shows both consideration and respect, promoting a welcoming atmosphere that encourages open communication.

When to Write it Out & Use Visual Aids

If you find yourself in a situation where complex information needs to be shared, and you are not fluent in ASL, it can be useful to use a pen and paper, or electronic notes device to communicate instead. Using visual aids is a great way to enhance communication with a person, or people, who are deaf, especially in group settings. Utilizing tools like presentations or written materials ensures that everyone in the group is on the same page.

Eliminating the barriers of misunderstanding and allowing for accurate exchange of information is important but remember that while this approach is practical and ensures seamless information sharing it can be alienating as it removes human emotion from the conversation. Learning basic ASL and using it before resorting to writing out your message can help maintain connection during the conversation.

Commit to Inclusivity Everyday

By taking steps to learn and use basic American Sign Language (ASL) signs, respecting the significance of eye contact, facial expressions, and personal space, and incorporating written communication and visual aids when needed, we can dismantle communication barriers between the hearing and Deaf communities. When we commit to inclusivity everyday, we can create meaningful interactions and change the world for the better. We challenge you to take these tips to heart and share them with your family and friends.

If you child is Deaf and you are interested in learning more about how Schreiber’s Pediatric Therapies can help your child visit: http://www.schreiberpediatric.org/therapy-services/

As a nationally recognized pediatric facility, the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development provides family-centered education and therapy programs for infants, children and adolescents with disabilities, developmental delays, and acquired injuries. Our goal-oriented approach maximizes each child’s ability to function independently within the community.

Carter Peiffer: Back from the brink

For Carter Peiffer, an occupational therapy session with Sarah Terry will usually involve food. And making a mess with food.

The mess is by design. A puddle of PediaSure on the table is fair game for Carter to write his name in, drive a toy car through or give a sip to Elmo. He might pull a straw from a cup filled with the nutrition drink and sniff (good) or take a tiny taste (better) from the end of the straw.

It’s all about making food fun for Carter, giving him positive experiences. He and food have had a rough two years. Through a series of life events, Carter went from a happy, active 2 year-old who would eat lots of different foods to a 4 year-old who would only eat strawberry banana yogurt — and it had to be Gerber’s. The lack of variety and nutrition in his diet over time left him with a severe vitamin C deficiency and a case of what used to be called scurvy. That caused his bones and muscles to weaken, to the point where his bones became brittle and he couldn’t walk or even stand without help.

What: Schreiber’s Cup O’ Cards

When: March 28-April 7

Details: Visit Schreiber’s Cup O’ Cards page here.

To buy tickets: Visit the Cup O’ Cards raffle page here.

Let’s go back to the beginning. When he was 2, his mother Desiree said she noticed Carter was a little delayed in speech. But he was otherwise active and healthy. Then he gradually began to cut out some foods, starting when Carter’s brother was born. Around the same time, his grandmother was in the hospital for an extended period following heart surgery.

These new stresses in his life caused him to become even more picky with his eating, to the point where all he would eat was the yogurt.

In March a year ago, Carter was running around playing when he tripped and fell. He ended up breaking the growth plate in his left knee, which required a knee immobilizer. A month later, he fell again — still wearing the immobilizer on his right knee — and broke the growth plate in his other knee.

After another round of medical visits, doctors at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in May found multiple tiny fractures in his bones and sent him to CHOP’s emergency department for an immediate, intensive examination.

Their conclusion: Carter’s increasingly limited diet for more than a year had caused a dangerous vitamin C deficiency that had weakened his bones and left him susceptible to fractures. His overall medical state was as fragile as his little brittle bones.

He spent nine days at CHOP in May receiving treatment and starting inpatient therapy. Later that month, after he was sent home, Desiree called Jen Bachman, our social services director, to arrange starting services at Schreiber.

In early June, Carter had his first physical therapy visit. After not being able to put any weight on his legs because of his knee injuries, step one in his recovery was relearning how to walk. He did aquatic therapy in our therapy pool with Megan Campbell Roland, and PT in the gym with Laurie Panther.

Desiree said Laurie noticed some sensory issues and suggested Carter be evaluated for occupational therapy. In September, doctors diagnosed him with autism and sensory processing disorder, and he started working with Sarah for OT. The work there has focused on helping him expand the variety of foods he ate.

“Carter, what did you eat today?”

Sarah asked the question at the start of a recent therapy session.

“Some peanut butter bread, and I ate some hot dog!”

“You did not,” Mom said. She smiled and gave him a what-are-you-talking-about look. “You had some yogurt.”

“Yogurt,” Carter repeated back, and then swirled some PediaSure around the table with his fingers.

Sarah had a dry erase board next to her with Carter’s eating goals for the session written in blue marker. When Carter accomplished one of his tasks for the session, Sarah had him fill in the box next to that task on the white board.

The work with Sarah on eating is paying off. Desiree said Carter weighed 29 pounds when he arrived at CHOP a year ago and 32 pounds when he left. Today, his weight consistently ranges between 42 and 45 pounds.

“Sarah got him to eat peanut butter and marshmallow (sandwiches),” she said. “He started eating chips. He tried an animal cracker and a pretzel. He seems to like the crunchy stuff.”

It’s a constant process, sometimes painfully slow, sometimes with setbacks.

“When he gets derailed, when he gets sick, he shuts down (and stops eating),” she said. “I’ve had to stay up all night with him to give him water, because getting dehydrated would mean we’d have to go to the ER.”

The progress is obvious, and not just with his eating.

“He’s able to walk and run and is almost back to where he was before all this started,” Desiree said. “He plays on the playground. He goes up and down steps. He’s able to express himself more now.”

Later, she talked with a lot of emotion about what she has seen bringing him to every appointment for the past nine months.

“To see his progress has been amazing. I know (coming to Schreiber) will all end at some point, but everybody has been so amazing. They are like family here, and Carter loves being here.”

After taking two tentative tastes of a strawberry nutrition drink, Carter finishes the session with a reward: a bite of his peanut butter sandwich.

For the Kiss family, dedication mixed with gratitude

Colton Kiss has been through a lot in his young life. He turns 2 March 16. (Photo provided by Cathy Kiss)

The complications for Colton Kiss started the moment he was born. His mom, Tara Kiss, said doctors used vacuum extraction to help with delivery.

The procedure “caused four intracranial brain hemorrhages,” Tara wrote in an email, “as well as a blood clot on his cerebellum, which is the part of the brain that controls movement, balance and speech.”

Colton was quickly transferred from Lancaster to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, widely known as CHOP, where he spent the next two weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Tara, living in York at the time, stayed with her mother, Cathy Kiss. Cathy lives in Manor Township, and Tara drove back and forth to Philadelphia every day for those two weeks to be with Colton.

When Colton was 4 months old, a follow-up MRI showed the blood clot and hemorrhages were gone, but the clot left behind an area of damage on the cerebellum.

Colton Kiss sustained damage to his brain during delivery that left him with a host of challenges, from developmental delays to difficulty learning to walk and talk.

“We learned from his neurologist that we were looking at a long road of obstacles as that part of the brain is so important to everyday life — walking, talking, motor skills…,” Tara wrote.

CHOP referred them to Early Intervention and outpatient pediatric therapy. After doing some research and talking with friends, Tara knew she wanted to start services with Schreiber. Cathy’s best friend’s father, Joe Finger, had volunteered here with a group of other residents from St. Anne’s Retirement Community. Cathy also knew Michele DeBord, sister of Schreiber President James DeBord.

“Hearing about (Joe’s) experience and knowing Michele was so passionate about Schreiber, we were really comfortable (starting at Schreiber),” Cathy said.

Colton was born in March of 2020. Tara moved to Lancaster in December of that year to start services at Schreiber.

“We were immediately welcome by the Schreiber staff who are now pretty much our family,” Tara wrote. “Lisa (Moore, at the front desk) took us in under her wing and connected me to Jen Bachman to get Colton evaluated and started right away. We have been working with Miss Christen (DeSarro) for PT, Miss Kim (Martin) for OT and Miss Cassie (Glick) for speech. When we started, Colton was unable to sit unassisted, unable to feed himself solid food, unable to say any words at all.”

That was where Colton was in early 2021. Today? He still receives all three therapies, and he’s enrolled in Schreiber’s Circle of Friends Academy child care program, in the Toddler Room.

“Whether children are born healthy or born with already known obstacles, every child deserves a chance to be helped, and Schreiber gives every child a fair chance at a normal life.”

Tara Kiss, Colton’s mother

“It has not even been a year yet,” Tara wrote, “and he is now able to sit, stand alone and take his own steps on flat surfaces. He can feed himself any type of food he desires. He is working on his words and attempting new words almost daily. We are only in the beginning of this journey, but because of the dedication from our Schreiber family, Colton has a chance to live his life as normal as possible.”

Which is why Cathy reached out just about a year ago at this time offering to help with our first Cup O’ Cards fundraiser. The idea for Cup O’ Cards was simple: We bought a bunch of gift cards from local businesses, stuffed them into some sponsored coffee cups, then raffled off the cups.

“I heard about it from Michele, I looked at your website, and I decided to jump right in” by donating a card-filled coffee cup, she said.

Cathy, who runs her own home-based accounting business, CLK Accounting and Payroll Inc., reached out to a number of clients and asked them to donate money to buy gift cards or to donate cards from their business. We quickly added her CLK Accounting mug to the other cups, and it turned out to be popular with raffle ticket buyers.

She was happy to participate in the second Cup O’ Cards raffle, which starts March 28, and she plans to do two cups this year, including a Mystery Cup filled with a collection of surprise gift cards.

“I’ve already raised more than $600 in cash, which I’ll use to buy the gift cards,” Cathy said, “and collected two donated items for the Mystery Cup.”

Last year, with Cathy’s help, Cup O’ Cards raised about $27,000. This year, with her help again, we hope to raise even more. And that would be make a proud grandmother pretty happy.

“That’s my boy,” she said. “And I see what Schreiber does for kids with my own eyes. (Colton) didn’t sit up until he was maybe 10 or 11 months old. He’s very delayed. To see his progress with the therapists is what I love about Schreiber.”

Tara said it this way in her email:

“… Whether children are born healthy or born with already known obstacles, every child deserves a chance to be helped, and Schreiber gives every child a fair chance at a normal life. That is something I will always support. We are forever grateful for Schreiber and the care my son receives. From his teachers at Circle of Friends Academy down to all of his therapists, thank you all for loving my son!”