Why Griffin’s Place

Married in 1976, Becky and Keith Berger owned and operated a successful family agricultural business in Hillsboro, Oregon. In 1982, Keith was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Becky and Keith were initially optimistic about his prognosis; however Keith’s health steadily declined even as the business and their family grew larger.

In 1994 the Berger’s had their sixth child, Griffin, a happy but quiet child, who was diagnosed with autism in 1996.

Within the next few years, two more of their children were also identified as being on the autism spectrum with Griffin being the most significantly impacted. Non-verbal and very dependent on his mom, Becky was responsible for all of Griffin’s needs; including dressing, showering, toileting and encouraging his participation and engagement in everyday activities. Griffin also had significant sensory needs and a limited diet due to sensory issues.

As Keith’s illness continued to progress, Becky’s life became increasingly hectic. Keith had to retire from the business and Becky began to independently run the business, continue to parent children with complex needs and manage their home. Eventually Keith had to move into a skilled nursing center and Griffin either spent time traveling to visit his father or spent more time in his room at home, which was his preferred “activity” outside of school. Griffin’s diet deteriorated and his weight skyrocketed. Reflecting back, it was years of managing one crisis after another. In 2011, after 28 years of courageously battling his M.S., Keith passed away.

Those close to Becky encouraged her to get help in supporting Griffin, who was now 17. Becky knew Griffin deserved to become the priority and believed he could do much more, given the right support and opportunities. She contacted a few highly recommended consultants and with their help “Team Griffin” began to take shape.

A few critical components that made Team Griffin successful included:

Following Keith’s passing, Becky had additional financial resources to provide Griffin the items, activities and staff that the consultants she had hired recommended. Sensory equipment, quality staffing, direct therapy and home/community activities proved very successful in developing Griffin’s leisure interests and social development, even as an older teenager!

Becky agreed to move forward with one key goal in mind: ‘Give Griffin the tools and skills to successfully live on his own (perhaps with minimal support) by age 23’ This meant teaching Griffin to be as independent and connected with the community as possible, to move away from reliance on his mom and to work on developing the necessary skills and resources he needed to live on his own, make his own choices and reach his full potential.

Griffin himself! Although cautiously and with much hesitation, Griffin embraced his new life and new activities and tolerated, even enjoyed, engaging with his fabulous Skill’s Trainers, who structured his life and offered encouragement and motivation for his success.

  • Griffin is now 20 years old and has become independent beyond Becky’s wildest expectations.
  • He now attends social activities with friends in the community, takes classes at the local Community College, is learning to read and uses a Speech Generating Device in the community and his own voice with those whom he is familiar.
  • He cooks all his own meals, including chicken fettuccini, steamed broccoli and a side salad and frequently orders a variety of menu items using his communication device at local sit down restaurants.
  • He cares and cleans up after himself; does laundry, is learning to vacuum, grocery shops with a written and visual shopping list, checks out books from the library and hosts social activities with his friends at his home.
  • He loves to watch Blazer games with his family, enjoys bike riding, strength training at the gym and swimming.
  • He is learning to text critical information (Who, What, Where) and knows his Debit Card PIN number to pay for items on his own when in the community.
  • He uses public transportation, with support, and this fall started his first paid community based work at Metro West Ambulance.

Becky’s vision for Griffin has changed; she is now confident that he is capable of accomplishing many things and that he is both successful and happier as a result of being included, engaged and involved!

After witnessing Griffin’s remarkable success, Becky was determined to find a way to share their success with others by making critical resources available. In mid 2014, Griffin’s Place was established, a non-profit social enterprise created to provide individuals and their families/providers resources and information, classes and hands-on experiences and much needed training and support to enable all individuals with I/DD to be included, engaged and successful in all aspects of their lives. We hope you will join us, learn more about Griffin’s Place and learn how you can be part of your own as well as someone else’s success.