Here are this year’s Ambassadors.
Age: She turns 5 in March
Diagnosis: Cerebral palsy
Parents: Kelly and Adam Clay of Manheim Township
Favorite activities: Playing with her toys, going to the beach, watching movies on her iPad, riding her bike around the neighborhood and seeing plays at local theaters.
Favorite foods: Pizza and ice cream
What she watches and listens to: Disney movies, “Doc McStuffins,” “Sofia the First,” princess movies
Three words to describe her: Happy, outgoing and determined
What else to know about Sophia: She has a black lab named Dallas.
Sophia’s cerebral palsy means she uses a wheelchair for a lot of her day. Her therapy at Schreiber is intended to help her be out of the chair more. “She’s working to become stronger in all areas of her life,” says her mom Kelly. “She practices with a gait trainer so she can stand on her own. She works on sitting up without assistance. She practices her fine motor skills, her articulation and eating on her own.”
It’s the articulation — how clearly she speaks — where Sophia has shown the biggest progress.
“Sophia’s language has come a long way,” Kelly says. “When she started, she could only say a few things. Now, she can say 10-word sentences.”
Age: He turns 12 in August
Diagnosis: Deaf and childhood speech apraxia
Grade and school: Fifth grade, John Beck Elementary School
Parents: Wendy Williams and Karl Lodwick of South Lebanon Township, Lebanon County
Siblings: Graham has an older brother Reese, 14
Favorite activities: Playing with pets, playing video games, bowling and riding his bike
Favorite food: Pizza
What he watches and listens to: “Drake and Josh,” “Minions,” the song “The Best Day of My Life” by American Authors
When he grows up, he wants to: Be a car designer
Three words to describe him: Happy, silly and loving
Graham has been coming to Schreiber for speech therapy since he was 6. Dorlas Riley, Schreiber’s lead speech therapist, diagnosed Graham with speech apraxia. The condition is defined this way by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Graham knows what he wants to say, but his brain has difficulty coordinating the muscle movements necessary to say those words. He’s also deaf and has a cochlear implant.
So in his twice-a-week therapy at Schreiber, he practices his speech sounds and works on listening to get the best use of his cochlear processor. He’s also working on talking in complete sentences. The work is paying off. When he started with Dorlas, he communicated entirely by signing.
“(Now), he can carry on a conversation with someone who does not use sign language,” says his mom Wendy.
It takes a lot of effort to make that kind of progress. But his therapy with Dorlas doesn’t seem like work.
“He loves it,” Wendy says. “Even after six years, he still looks forward to coming.”
Tiberius “Ty” McCabe
Age: He turned 6 in December
Diagnoses: Pierre Robin Syndrome, Pterygium Syndrome, hearing impaired, speech and language impaired
Grade and school: Schreiber S.T.A.R.S. Preschool
Parents: Kevin and Margaret McCabe, Lititz
Siblings: Delaney, 12
Favorite activities: Playing with Delaney; playing with trains, tractors and monster truck toys; playing ABC Mouse and tabletop games with the nurses; video games
Favorite food: Pudding
What he watches and listens to: On TV, he likes “Magic School Bus,” Mr. Rogers, and SpongeBob; for movies, he likes the “Air Bud” series; favorite song is “The Wheels on the Bus”
When he grows up he wants to: Be a pilot or drive monster trucks
Three words to describe him: Outgoing, determined and happy
Ty McCabe spreads smiles and good vibes whenever he comes to Schreiber. Which, it turns out, is a lot. He’s here for preschool, and he receives physical, speech and occupational therapy.
He was born with a couple of different conditions: Pierre Robin Syndrome, which left him with a smaller-than-normal lower jaw, issues with his tongue and feeding problems; Pterygium Syndrome, which carries several symptoms but primarily affects his joints and bones; and he has hearing, speech and language impairments.
During therapy and at home, he works on stair climbing, bike riding and dressing himself. He practices fine motor skills like writing, using scissors and feeding himself. He’s trying to improve his speech and his signing skills. Since he started at Schreiber, he has learned to walk without a walker, is able to form some words and is eating Stage II foods, the thicker, chunkier foods that replace purees.
“(He is preparing) for mainstream education at the highest functional level of independence,” his mom Margaret says. “We have seen academic improvement despite many hospitalizations, surgeries and medical appointments.”
Age: She turns 19 in March
Diagnosis: Autism spectrum disorder
Parents: Reenie and Peter Panzini, Manheim Township
Siblings: Edward, 20; Carina, 10
Favorite activities: Listening to music, adult coloring books, playing games on the Wii, collecting jewelry
What she watches and listens to: The Food Network, “Spider Man” movie, Destiny’s Child
Favorite food: “Mac and cheese – gluten-free, please!”
When she grows up she wants to: “Be a Hollywood singer.”
Three words to describe her: Beautiful, sweet and funny
What else to know about Sophia: She attends Schreiber’s Club 625 events, making friends and being a teenager.
Like a lot of kids with autism, Sophia Panzini is reluctant to look people in the eye when she talks to them. But when she’s posing for a picture, she loves the camera — and the camera loves her.
Here’s her story, in the words of her mom Reenie.
“Sophia was diagnosed with autism when she was 8, and we had just moved to Lancaster from New York City. Her pediatrician told us about Schreiber, and we practically ran there! We didn’t know anything about therapy or autism, and we were literally walked slowly through everything step by step. Sophia learned to have conversations, hold writing instruments, walk up and down stairs without crying, and so much more. We (as a family) learned that we’re stronger than we thought, and that you can get through anything with enough love and a lot of humor.”