(EDITOR'S NOTE: Following is the first in a yearlong series of real-life stories of people who benefit from the services provided by the Lycoming County United Way Program Partners and those who make it possible.)
When Andrew Kriebel was born in 2000, his parents, Dean and Amy of Lycoming County, were thrilled to have a happy and healthy son. Then when Andrew was 10 months old, he started having staring spells, in which he would stare off into space and his parents had trouble getting his attention for 10 very long, scary seconds a type of mini-seizure. When Andrew turned 1 year old, he had his first seizure.
Doctors ran an array of tests and prescribed an anti-seizure medication for Andrew; however, his seizures became violent and more frequent. A second drug was prescribed but still Andrew's seizures continued to worsen. A third anti-seizure medication only caused Andrew to "zone out" and when he was having up to 26 seizures a day, Dean and Amy knew they had to try something else. They weaned Andrew off of all three medications and consulted experts at children's hospitals in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh before they ended up at Geisinger Health System under the care of Dr. Scott Meyers, a neurologist. Dr. Meyers suspected Angelman Syndrome.
Andrew Kriebel, center, is surrounded by family members, from left, sister Lacey, mother Amy and father Dean.
Dean and Amy looked up Angelman Syndrome online and found virtually all of the symptoms were behaviors Andrew had been exhibiting excessive mouthing, no sweating, wide gait, extremely happy, severe mental retardation, seizures and sleep disorders.
Andrew wasn't learning the way other children his age were, so the Kriebels started looking for a school that would meet Andrew's needs. Both parents work full time and did not have the resources or specialized training needed to help Andrew. He needed excessive repetitive instruction on tasks others would think nothing of.
"Children's Development Center was an ideal fit for Andrew," said his father, Dean. "Andrew likes to go, go, go and in addition to the outstanding physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy programs and the amazing staff, Children's Development Center has a terrific playground."
The professionals at Children's Development Center helped Andrew learn to interact with people better, feed himself, ride a tricycle, and some basic sign language skills.
"We are very appreciative to Children's Development Center and United Way funding of CDC," Dean said. "Because of what Andrew learned at Children's Development Center, he now attends local public school in the Adaptive Program and still goes to Children's Development Center two days per week. Every day is a challenge, but it is more manageable because of Children's Development Center."
Health services, pre-school, and speech therapy at Children's Development Center are three of the more than 40 human service programs in Lycoming County funded by United Way. Through its annual funds distribution process determined by community volunteers, United Way recently awarded $120,000 to Children's Development Center based on community needs and program outcomes.
"Implementing these programs is very expensive," said Tony Perrota, Children's Development Center executive director. "To ensure that all children receive proper care, classroom size is limited and therapy is provided on a one-on-one basis. The funding we receive from Lycoming County United Way allows us to help local families and children with special needs."
Founded as the Lycoming County Crippled Children's Society in 1923, Children's Development Center has been providing multidisciplinary, diagnostic and treatment services to local children with special needs from birth to age 21. Depending upon individual needs, programs are designed to increase the child's physical, social, intellectual, and emotional abilities. Specific areas of service include developmental disabilities, neurological problems, speech and/or hearing impairments, perceptual dysfunction, brain damage, sensory integrative deficits, motor impairments, hyperactivity, scoliosis and multihandicaps.
"We are pleased to be able to support the critical services that Children's Development Center provides to the community. Without Children's Development Center, many of these families would have nowhere else to access the highly specialized instruction their children need," said Kate Pacacha, director of resource development and communications for Lycoming County United Way. "Children's Development Center does an outstanding job serving their clients and we are proud to have them as a Program Partner."