Friday, April 26, 2013

Every Month is Autism Awareness Month

Since the 1970s, April has been recognized as National Autism Awareness Month. Now April is drawing to a close, but just because the month is almost over does not mean that autism is going away. So, in order to promote a fuller understanding of autism, Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp is supplying you with some interesting and perhaps little known facts about it!

  1. When the term “autism” was first coined by Swiss psychiatrist, Eugene Bleuler, it referred to adult schizophrenia but was redefined in 1943 by Leo Kanner, who differentiated between autism and schizophrenia, creating the modern understanding of autism.
  2. Similarly, in the 1980s, the term “idiot savant” was changed to
  3. A study from three states claimed that areas with higher levels of precipitation also have higher rates of autism. Why? More pollutants, decreased vitamin D, and increased levels of television watching are some of the speculated reasons. (But remember, this was only one study! Still, I'm curious, if the study is accurate, where Portland falls.)
  4. If one identical twin is diagnosed with autism, there is about a 90% chance the other twin will develop some sort of autism as well.
  5. Between 30% and 50% of people with autism have seizures.

  6. Autism is more common than diabetes, AIDS, and childhood cancer combined.
  7. Many children with autism might be extremely sensitive to sound or touch but have reduced sensitivity to pain.
  8. Autism affects 1 in 88 children...
  9. ...and 1 in 54 boys, and
  10. 1 in 252 in girls.
  11. About 40% of people with autism do not speak.
  12. On average, autism costs a family about $60,000 a year.
  13. The 2012 National Institute of Health funds allocation was $30.86 billion, and of that money, only $169 million (about 0.55%) went directly to autism research.

This, of course, is only a small list of quick facts about autism. What do you know about autism and spectrum disorder? Let me know what I missed by leaving a comment here or on our Facebook page! And remember, Autism Awareness month is almost over, but it's always the right time to increase your own awareness and the awareness of others. We have to look out for one another, right? Spread the knowledge and the love!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Love Your Mother: Earth Day 2013

Earth Day 2013 is coming up! Although its official date is April 22nd, many Earth Day events begin tomorrow, the 20th. In past years, City Repair has produced Earth Day Portland, but this year too few people showed interest in volunteering. This unfortunately means that there won't be a big celebration, but that doesn't mean you can't celebrate on your own! What better way to recognize Earth Day than to spend some time outdoors? (Weather permitting, of course.) But first, here's a little rundown of two Earth Day events that will be happening.

  1. TONIGHT! From 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm is the Earth Day Evening of Music and Song organized by the Center for Earth Leadership. This event does require an RSVP, so call 503-227-2315 to see if there are still spaces available. This event will be hosted at the First Unitarian Church on SW 12th Avenue and Salmon Street, and features musical performances by Michael Allen Harrison, Sky in the Road, Raphael Spiro String Quartet, and the Portland Peace Choir. Celebrate with song!
  1. On Monday, April 22nd (official Earth Day), Portland State University is hosting its 6th annual Earth Day Festival in the Park Blocks behind Smith Memorial Student Union. There will be local art and food vendors.

But if you'd like some one-on-one time with lovely Mother Earth, that's great, too! Here are five of my favorite ideas for celebrating nature outdoors:

  1. Go on a nature walk (or roll)– I'm sure Kiwanis campers know how nice it is to simply be outside enjoying the natural beauty around us.

  2. Make art—Try taking that nature walk a step further. Pick up interesting things you find along the way (extra Earth points if it's trash), take them home, and make some art with your findings. I used to do this with my friends when I was younger (and sometimes still do when I find neat “junk” on the ground).

  3. Find a horse—This is another Kiwanis favorite. Not only is horseback riding a fun way to spend time outdoors and get in touch with Earth's creatures, but it's relaxing and therapeutic.

  4. Ride a bike—Oregon is a great place for bicycling, and there are many different bike options for people with disabilities. There are hand crank bikes, which allow wheelchair users to power themselves by hand; side-by-sides, which allow people with mobility difficulties to cycle with somebody else as support; tandems, which have similar benefits as side-by-sides, but are particularly useful for visually impaired cyclists; and tricycles, which are great for individuals who have trouble with balance.

    An adaptive side-by-side bike. Cool, right?

  5. Have a picnic—This one is possibly my favorite because it involves one of my favorite things: food. Grab a blanket, a friend, and some tasty snacks (burritos and pie, anyone?) and spend the afternoon at a park. Make sure, though, that you bring your provisions in a reusable lunchbox, basket, or bag. After all, it would be silly to bring paper bags and plastic water bottles to an Earth Day picnic, right?

Whether you prefer organized events or creating an event of your own, take some time to look around and appreciate what a beautiful place we live in this weekend. It's up to us to keep it beautiful and healthy. If we want to keep our home clean and make it even cleaner, we have to continue keeping it healthy even after the Earth Day festivities end. We live in such a wonderful place! Go out an enjoy it, and share with us what you did to celebrate Earth Day.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Rowing: An Adaptation

I feel it is necessary for me to preface this post by expressing how excited I am about it. See, I joined Portland State's crew (rowing) club in January, and it has gradually—yet rapidly—taken over most of my life, replacing movie nights with optional practices, dreams of flying with dreams of rowing, and, most predominantly, replacing everyday words and phrases with crew calls and boat terminology. I guess I should have expected sooner the day I would write a post on this blog relating to crew. Friends, that day has come.

But it's not entirely because of the way crew sucked me in like the Blob to a frantic bystander that I am writing on such a subject. Last weekend, I was in San Diego competing in the San Diego Crew Classic, and I was walking around, I saw a blind man wearing a competitor shirt. I started thinking, as I am wont to do, about the technicalities of rowing with a disability. In this man's case, I could understand how visual impairment might actually be a sort of advantage, it forcing one to focus on hearing and feeling the other boat members' movements to synchronize movements. But it seemed to me certainly impossible to row with most other physical disabilities, since rowing requires constant use of arms, body, and legs along with uniform movements from all members in the boat in order to keep the boat from tipping (as mine did the other day. Good morning, Willamette River...). However, to my shock and delight, adaptive rowing actually exists!

First, let me give you a quick rundown on non-adaptive rowing. I am most familiar with four- and eight-person boats. In these, there are four or eight rowers, respectively, and one coxswain (that's me!) who faces in the opposite direction of the rowers, steering the boat and making calls. There are also Each rower has one oar that sticks out either to port (which is the left side of the boat if you are facing the front of the boat, referred to as the bow) or starboard (the left side facing bow). The oars alternate, with one going port, then starboard, then port, etc. There are also sculling boats, where each rower has two oars, but I am less familiar with these. The rowers strap their feet to stationary shoes in the boat and sit on impossibly small seats that slide back and forth along a track. This allows them to generate power with their legs as they drive their oars through the water. There is a lot more to it than that, but I think that will be a sufficient introduction for the purpose of this blog.

An adapted boat with a stationary seat and pontoons to create better balance.

Adaptive rowing began in Philadelphia when veterans blinded in World War II competed in an Army versus Navy race. Since then, many programs have been developed to improve and increase opportunities for people with disabilities to row competitively. The first rowing club created solely for people with disabilities, the Philadelphia Rowing Program for the Disabled, was created in 1980, and in 2002, the FISA world championships included adaptive rowing in the regular program. Adaptive rowing was also included in the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games. The sport continues to grow and evolve today.

With adaptive rowing, changes can be made in equipment, technique, and various other aspects of the sport, like the calls made by the coxswain. There are also different classifications of rowers. There are currently four adaptive rowing classifications based on different functionalities: arms and shoulders (AS); trunk and arms (TA); legs, trunk and arms (LTA); and legs, trunk, and arms mixed coxed four for intellectually disabled (LTAIDMix4+). This last one means men and women can be in the same four-person boat with a coxswain. This one is particularly interesting because it allows rowers with intellectual disabilities to compete, too.

People who can use the traditional sliding seat are likely to be in the LTA class, and those who cannot would use adaptive stationary seats and would be in either the TA or the AS class. Members of the TA class might have something like a double leg amputation, cerebral palsy class five, or a low spinal cord injury. The AS class might include athletes who need a chest strap, like people with cerebral palsy class four or those with higher-level spinal cord injuries. Regardless of classification, it is extremely important that rowers, able-bodied and physically impaired alike, push themselves to do the most that they can using all of their abilities. Rowing is extremely physical, but it's truly a mental sport. If you get past the metal blocks that tell you you can't possibly keep going, then you're golden.

I could keep going on, but this post is getting a little lengthy. I shall end with this: Give rowing a try if you are in the mood to push yourself harder, physically, mentally, and emotionally, than you ever have before all while having an amazing time and getting to know people you ordinarily might not meet. That's what PSU crew has done for me and my crew mates. (And, when you think about it, joining a crew team shares a lot of qualities one gets out of MHKC: a new experience, great people, insanely close relationships, physical activity, and the wonderful outdoors! Who could ask for more?) So check it out, my friends! Head over to the US Rowing website's section on adaptive rowing. It's amazing stuff.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Mainstreamed Media: Sharing New Perspectives

When I entered high school, I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to go to events, conduct interviews, help others experience what I had experienced. I wanted to set the scene and write the facts. I was all about it. So my first semester of my freshman year, I enrolled in an introduction to journalism class. I enjoyed it enough, could have pursued it if I had been willing to commit the necessary time. I had the opportunity to be a journalist, and still do, I suppose. I still have the means to try my hand at a career many members of the developmentally disabled community typically don't get the chance to experience. Except, perhaps, in Portland. Mainstreamed Media is a non-profit organization based in Portland, Oregon that gives people with developmental disabilities the opportunity to be journalists. The organization's goal is to provide people a voice in the media and a platform for community involvement.

Mainstreamed Media founder, Todd Kimball, says he got the idea for his organization after TEXT. Kimball has cerebral palsy and knows what it can be like to have a disability prevent you from doing things you'd like to do. Kimball also understands that people with developmental disabilities are creative, open, and have a rarely-heard perspective to share, asking questions and getting answers that other media would not. “I notice both through my own experience as a person with a disability and my work with people with developmental disabilities that people with developmental disabilities needed opportunities in life,” Kimball says. “They had incredible passion, they had interests in the same things that you and I do, but they just didn't have the vehicle to experience that.” He has seen the limited access the developmentally disabled are granted at entertainment events, like, for example, being consistently seated in the back row or only being able to attend if a paid staff member is available to keep watch. But with media credentials, members of the developmentally disabled community are allowed to experience events in an entirely different way.

Working with Mainstreamed Media has some pretty fantastic benefits. As mentioned, people with developmental disabilities get to see what it's like to be a journalist. But what's more (and enviable), they get unprecedented access to community events—like sports, concerts, or theater—that they are interested in and the opportunity to interview the celebrities at those events. For example, singer Lyle Lovett and comedian Lewis Black have both been interviewed by Mainstreamed Media's journalists. Furthermore, Mainstreamed Media, with the help of volunteer media assistants, allows people with developmental disabilities to develop and maintain new friendships with people who have similar interests.

If you're interested in getting involved with Mainstreamed Media or just want to know more about the organization, check out their website,, or email Todd at You can also call at 503-960-4683.

What do you think? Do you know anyone who is involved in this? Is it something you or someone you know might like to try?