LO camp earmarked for proceeds from Tiffany Autism Foundation event

by: ANGELA ARTERBERRY - A child attending Camp Yakety Yak gets crafty with the help of a counselor.Inside the Mountain Park Church recreation center, nine kids stand in an evenly spaced circle, passing a soccer ball.

The object of the game is clear: Kick the ball to a friend, gently, and let everyone take a turn.

The temptation to send the ball careening off into the far corners of the gymnasium would momentarily derail the game, if indulged. But the supervising counselors seem confident that the kids can handle it.

And there are a lot of counselors. Enough that when one child, a girl with bangs and a stuffed toy rabbit, needs to take a break, three counselors split off to talk with her, while another five remain to monitor the game. The play proceeds with many smiles and only a few errant balls. by: CRAIG TIFFANY  - Connor Tiffany poses with a few adoring fans at last year's White Party.

The kids are enrollees at Camp Yakety Yak, a social communication summer program designed for children with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or other special needs. The Lake Oswego camp serves children ages 6 to 11. This year, the camp will receive some funds raised by the Tiffany Autism Foundation’s upcoming White Party.

Craig Tiffany, who founded the nonprofit that bears his name, said those who attend the event — dressed all in white, of course — can walk down a white carpet and pose for photos.

“It’s a good party for a good cause,” Tiffany said.

Tiffany first started raising money for autism in 2010, when he asked partygoers at his wife’s birthday to bring donations in lieu of gifts. In 2012, the money from ticket sales, auction items and other donations at the White Party raised almost $32,000 for Autism Speaks, an advocacy group dedicated to funding autism research.

This year, Tiffany hopes that 200 guests can raise $60,000.

His own son, Connor, was diagnosed with autism at 18 months. Tiffany said that raising a child with autism was a learning process — both for and about himself.

“Having a child with autism has made me a better person,” Tiffany said. “I’ve become far more patient and understanding and empathetic as a person. (I’ve become) a better coach in youth sports and a better boss.”

Tickets to the White Party are $75, and the celebration will be hosted at the Oregon Golf Club July 26. The event also features a cocktail hour, silent auction, live music and dancing.

The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a cocktail hour and music from local musician Michele Van Kleef. Dinner starts at 7:30 p.m. The auction, table games and dancing to The Design Band starts after dinner.

Meanwhile, back at Camp Yakety Yak, it’s lunchtime, and the 50 or so campers are breaking out lunchboxes and coolers, replete with snacks and celery sticks.

As the kids munch quietly, camp Director Angela Arterberry announces the options for recess, requiring the students to raise their hands before asking questions.

According to Arterberry, learning these communication skills can be one of the central challenges for kids diagnosed with autism.

“I don’t mean vocabulary words or being able to say all your letter sounds right,” Arterberry said. “I mean knowing when and how to ask for help, or to negotiate and collaborate.”

So at Camp Yakety Yak, lesson plans are based around a number of different modes of expression. Children practice both classroom skills — hand raising, lining up and waiting your turn — and nonverbal communication techniques, like body language, tone and posture.

Kyla Dirks, a graduate student studying speech pathology at Pacific University, emphasized that these life skills are integrated into larger activities — like talking about bugs or building a volcano — rather than serving as the sole focus of classroom discussion.

“They get to explore what it’s like to be in a classroom space, without feeling like someone else is in control,” Dirks said. “It really gets to be their camp, rather than our camp that they’re at.”

To learn more about Camp Yakety Yak, or to register for the camp’s second session, visit

For more information on the Tiffany Autism Foundation, or to purchase tickets for the White Party, visit tiffanyautismfounda

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