Wales Provided the Spark
The story of Swank Early Skills Development begins in Wales in 1992. This is when our President & CEO, Cynthia Swank, spent a year in Wales living in a shared community that served as a live-in high school and post-high school training center for adolescents and young adults who had special needs of varying types and degrees.
Cindy, who had just obtained her bachelor’s degree in International Studies, found her passion and purpose through this year of volunteer experience in Wales. Not unlike her interest and training in International Studies, Cindy enjoyed the similarities and differences across people, both students and her fellow volunteers.
She was invested in why and how they do what they do, and in learning different ways to communicate with people to develop a shared understanding of the world in which they live.
Local Experiences Provided the Fuel
Upon returning to the U.S., Cindy worked to gain experience and understanding of the different ways that folks who have disabilities were supported in Pennsylvania. Over the next few years, she worked in a residential center for kids who had severe and profound disabilities. Most of these children were confined to wheelchairs due to very limited physical ability.
She also worked in an adult day program, and for IU15 as a substitute Instructional Aide and Special Education Teacher. During this time, she also enrolled in the Special Education master’s degree and teacher certification program at Millersville University. She obtained her master’s degree a few short years later in 1996.
Cindy taught Special Education and specialized in teaching students who had moderate to severe disabilities. This included those who had Autism, even though students were only just starting to be identified as “Autistic” at this time. She taught in Washington, D.C., Monterey, CA, and San Jose, CA, before coming back to Pennsylvania and gaining a couple of years of experience in the Behavioral Health Rehabilitative Services field, which was unique to PA at that time.
Eventually, she found her way back to employment at IU15; this time, as an Educational Consultant in the Autism Department. Cindy was fortunate enough to be assigned the IU’s Internal Coach in the first year of the PA State Department of Education’s Verbal Behavior Project, which is now known as the “PA Autism Initiative”.
During her time in this role, she was blessed with intensive training and experience in Applied Behavior Analysis, which is something she had some training and interest in throughout her teaching career. Cindy had found that, out of all of the many trainings and experiences she gained through her career as a teacher, the interventions based in Applied Behavior Analysis were the ones that had the greatest impact on her students’ abilities to gain new skills, communicate, participate, and become more independent.
Early ABA Intervention Started to Take Off
Fast forward many years as a participant and, subsequently, as a consultant for the Autism Initiative itself, Cindy saw a need for non-school-aged children, those 5/6 years old and younger, to receive this effective intervention too.
She knew that providing effective, personalized ABA intervention, through which children could acquire communication and participation at a younger age, could make an even bigger impact on their independence and functioning for more of their lives. She began individually providing services through Early Intervention and Health Insurance-funded services.
Swank Early Skills Development Launched
As she started making her vision a reality, she found that she could only make a limited difference in the lives of the children and families in her community as one professional. But, if she started a company and taught others the knowledge and skills that she had acquired over her career, they could make a bigger impact on the community together.
And so, Swank Early Skills Development was born in March of 2015 with Cindy hiring her first Behavior Tech, Amy Joy. Katelyn joined in May of 2015. One by one, Cindy found more compassionate, skilled folks to bring on and help her serve kids and their families in the community through the science of ABA intervention.
The Future Shines Bright
Now, Cindy’s “dream team” of 45 skilled, compassionate professionals is here to serve the needs of our Lancaster County community. As we discover more families who have a child in need of ABA intervention and as we discover other ways we can use our training and expertise in ABA, Early Childhood Development, and Behavior Management, we will work with county agencies and other providers to establish and offer additional services to meet the needs of children and families in our area.
Through dedication, compassion, and education, we can make a difference in our communities and in the lives of children and their families. Early intervention can help your child thrive and their light shine bright. Let’s shine bright together.