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A place for all abilities rises in Washington County

Griffin's Place provides social opportunities for disabled people over 14

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE: TRAVIS LOOSE - Since 2014, Griffin's Place, a Hillsboro nonprofit, has worked to offer people with developmental disabilities the chance to play and interact with the community. On Wednesday, the group held an Art Day at Aloha's Edward's CenterPushing her rolling walker in a wide circle, Tammie squealed with delight.

"This is fun!" she loudly repeated, painting the word "CREATE" in a line of yellowish-orange paint on canvas spread across the floor.

Tammie, a woman in her 40s, was one of dozens of people who laughed and painted at the Edwards Center in Aloha Wednesday, Aug. 10, thanks to a Washington County nonprofit that helps teens and adults with intellectually and developmental disabilities get out and have fun.

Since 2014, Griffin's Place has worked to create experiences for people age 14 and up with physical, intellectual or developmental disabilities as they transition out of high school and into the world.

It can be very isolating for young adults with disabilities as they move away from home and the services aimed toward adults dwindle, said Britteny Asher, a speech language pathologist who works with Griffin's Place.

"At transition age, when they turn 18, activity services fall off and after-school services end,” she said. “When they go home, they don't have much of a social, leisure life."

Griffin’s Place aims to change that. Along with helping teens live independently, the group allows people with disabilities to engage with the community, explore their interests and experience new things as they transition from childhood into adulthood.

"Employment is great,” Asher said. “But we play, too.”

Attendees at the Edwards Center were treated to a fair of sorts, where they could paint, fashion T-shirts and interact with one another.

The Edwards Center, 4375 S.W. Edwards Place, works with disabled clients, offering classes and activities, housing and employment services.

“Transportation is tough,” said Griffin’s Place’s founder Becky Meeuwsen-Berger. “That's one reason to partner with the Edwards Center — because they have a community that's already getting transported here, and they’re familiar with it."

Meeuwsen-Berger founded the organization in order to provide resources, training, information and support to families in Washington County. She named it after her son, Griffin, 22, who was diagnosed with autism in 1996.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: TRAVIS LOOSE - The afternoon activity included fun and games of all sorts, aimed at getting people to socialize."We're looking for opportunities to provide members of the disabled community experiences that they might not otherwise have, and to just open up their worlds," Meeuwsen-Berger said. "We know there's a need.”

Since its founding, Griffin’s Place has led field trips to Portland Trail Blazers and Hillsboro Hops games, hosted dance parties and movie screenings and run classes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Meeuwsen-Berger was inspired to start the organization after watching her son get the physical and occupational therapy he needed to learn to successfully live independently with minimal support. She said she wanted that experience for everyone.

"It bothered me that we had the resources and the help to get him what he needed, but so many other people out there were needing the same type of services," she said. "So we came up with Griffin's Place to give other people those great opportunities — and it's been wonderful."

Last week’s get-together was all about fun, Meeuwsen-Berger said, and brought together other organizations that provide similar opportunities.

Ruth McKee of the Columbia Regional Program, a Portland nonprofit that provides a continuum of educational programs — brought out large foam balls that beep, designed to help blind people when playing horseshoes or bocce ball. Adaptive chess boards and television remotes are used as well.

Dwayne Szot — inventor, philanthropist and founder of Michigan-based, adaptive art tool supplier Zot Artz — brought the paints. Szot invented an art roller that attaches to wheelchairs or walkers so people with limited mobility will have the same opportunity to paint.

"We need opportunities to express ourselves," Szot said. "So we design (products) with the intent to reach individuals of all abilities. It's about the completeness of experiences."

He believes art should be for everyone.

"A long time ago,” Szot said, “I decided I wasn't going to make paintings that hang on walls or easels. They were going to be things that made a difference in people's lives."

At that, Tammie squealed with delight.?

PAMPLIN MEDIA: TRAVIS LOOSE - Since 2014, Griffin's Place, a Hillsboro nonprofit, has worked to offer people with developmental disabilities the chance to play and interact with the community. On Wednesday, the group held an Art Day at Aloha's Edward's Center