Play Room. April 2016

Speech-therapy questions, asked and answered, plus the best shoes for new walkers and meet our first-ever kid to know.

Take Five: Mary Peveto

Mary Peveto of Northwest Portland founded Neighbors for Clean Air in 2010 after learning about air toxins at her daughter’s school, Chapman Elementary. Peveto, who has three daughters, realized hers wasn’t the only school with polluted air in Portland. In fact, 35 Portland schools are ranked in the worst 5 percent in the nation. We talked to her about the recent revelations about cadmium and arsenic hot spots in Southeast and North Portland.

Play_Room_-_Take_Apr16Q: What’s the mission of Neighbors for Clean Air?

A: To create a healthier Oregon by protecting all Oregonians from toxic air pollution.

Q: By now, we all know two glass companies were releasing the toxic metals cadmium and arsenic into Southeast and North Portland neighborhoods. What’s considered a safe level and what are the highest levels that have been revealed?

A: I am not sure we can say what a safe level is; for example, lead is the best studied neurotoxin and we know there is no safe level. The problem with all of our standards is that they are based on acute levels. So a certain “dose” is known to be unsafe. But children, especially, are more vulnerable because of the timing of exposure, not just the dose — i.e. what effect will this have on the rapidly developing brain during key windows of development.

That said, even under the flawed and probably under-protective measuring stick we do have, folks are learning that the levels they have been exposed to are between 50 to 90 times “acceptable risk” levels. The Environmental Protection Agency’s definition of “acceptable risk” is no more than 1 in 1 million people would be expected to develop cancer from that level.

Q: Aren’t there regulations in place that should have prevented this pollution?

A: Yes and no. The federal government has long recognized the limitations of federal law to address these hot spots. That’s why so much discretion is left in the hands of the state regulatory entities. To that end, in 2003 the Oregon legislature passed some very progressive, very protective statutes to push our regulators to address air toxics. Our Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has all the authority it needs to pass stronger regulations. It just has not chosen to do so.

Q: What should families in Southeast and North Portland who are concerned about their exposure to cadmium and arsenic do in terms of their health?

A: Families should be working with their doctors to do anything they feel is necessary to mitigate the negative health consequences. I think there is also going to be real potential through class action litigation to recoup the costs of that.

Q: How can concerned parents help change our air pollution laws?

A: We will be working with the governor and our legislature to identify key rules and changes in the air division at DEQ. Citizens need to continue to put pressure on our elected officials to support these changes. Join our efforts at

— Denise Castañon

Getaway: Ashford, Wash

Even stroller-friendly trails can get you to amazing Mount Rainier viewpoints.
Even stroller-friendly trails can get you to amazing Mount Rainier viewpoints.

On Portland’s clearest days, Mount Rainier can be glimpsed from the city’s overlooks, reminding us that this treasured national park is only a 2.5-hour drive from Portland. Spring is a great time to explore, before the summer hordes descend. Base your family in nearby Ashford, the gateway town to the park’s southwestern entrance. From there, you can spend a day exploring in and around the park — stroller-friendly trails include the Nisqually Vista trail at Paradise Lodge, and Trail of the Shadows at the Longmire base. Kids ages 3 and older can try their hands at the Junior Ranger program — drawing pictures and answering questions about the park to earn a stamp in their National Parks passport. Or head west about 8 miles from Ashford to find the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad, which wends its way across the upper Nisqually River and to the train museum at Mineral, Wash., which houses old, logging, steam locomotives. For food, check out Wildberry Restaurant, which has plenty of kid-friendly standbys, but also a menu of Himalayan sherpa-inspired foods, like momo dumplings and thali bowls. Book a family-friendly cabin at Stone Creek Lodge, where guests gather around a communal campfire to make s’mores on clear spring and summer evenings

— Julia Silverman

TOP 5…

Spring Hikes for Families


Our picks this month come from our friend Shanti Hodges, the founder of Hike it Baby, a Portland-based nonprofit that is dedicated to getting families across the country on trails in a safe and supported way. Visit for more info.

Tualatin Hills Nature Park is an easy, stroller-friendly trail with wildlife and woods. Bonus points for a nature center with restrooms.

➋ Right in the middle of town, Lower Macleay features a “witch’s castle” on the hike for kids to explore. Toddlers will need to be carried through some parts due to steep drop offs.

➌ For big adventure hit Wahclella Falls, a painless drive from downtown. The 1-mile trail offers breathtaking waterfall views and great photo ops.

➍ Whether you’re looking for trails or pavement, Mount Tabor provides it all. Hike to the top and you are rewarded with a city view. Make sure to stop at the playground.

➎ The Wapato Greenway is a great, flat hike on a bird estuary. Super safe trail for new walkers and wrangling multiple kids. Pro tip: No bathroom, so be prepared.

Play_Room_-_Good_Deeds-Apr16Good Deeds:

Volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank’s Learning Gardens or Community Farm with your kids is a two-fer: You’ll all learn about growing your own food and you’ll help food insecure families get healthy, fresh produce. In April and May you can expect to help with removing cover crops, adding compost, preparing beds, and planting seeds and starts. Later in the summer volunteers will keep busy harvesting and watering. Last year OFB’s Learning Gardens and Community Farm yielded 27,719 pounds of produce and 6,550 starts for giving away to food pantries. Volunteers of all ages and experience levels are welcome. For more information on shift times and locations, and to sign up, visit

— D.C.

Kid to Know: The Digital Artist

Play_Room_-_Kid_to_Know-Apr16Keep your eye on Westview High senior Bailey Volchok, whose artwork was picked as the Oregon winner in the national student Doodle4Google contest. Volchok used Adobe Photoshop and a pen and tablet to draw her doodle digitally. What was her inspiration? “This year’s theme was ‘what makes me, me.’ Because I am passionate about art and I love technology, I thought it would be fun to combine the two,” says Volchok. “I illustrated myself, my laptop, headphones, a keyboard and computer — all things that I love to work with and help me create art. If I can be a positive role model and use technology to spread my art and inspire others, then that’s what makes me, me.”

At presstime, Volchok is in the running to win a $30,000 scholarship, a $50,000 grant for her school and the prestige of having her doodle featured on the U.S. Google homepage for one day. Last year Volchok illustrated more than 500 sticky notes to create a stop-motion animation anti-bullying video with her cousin, Cody Stotlz. The short was chosen to premiere at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth. Volchok just got her acceptance letter to the University of Oregon’s digital arts program and is also hoping to study business. We can’t wait to see what she does next.

— D.C.

Play_Room-heartbeats_cover-Apr16Playlist: I Heart U

HeartBeats, Feel Good Songs for Families

It’s trite, but true. You never realize how deeply you are capable of loving until you have a child of your own. The compilation album HeartBeats, Feel Good Songs for Families, serves as the perfect soundtrack for those feelings. Another truism: Being a parent changes you. Just ask former ’90s alt-rockers The Verve Pipe and Chris Ballew of The Presidents of the United States of America, who now jam for the short set. Ballew, now known as Caspar Babypants, delivers the silly, sweet song Because I Love You and The Verve Pipe dishes up a rockin’ counting song about a family bursting at the seams. Bottom line: Every song on this album is wonderful. Download it now.

— D.C.

Gear Guide: Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes

Witnessing those first few wobbly steps your baby takes can make your heart feel like it’s going to explode with pride. Here are some adorable spring shoes just right for spring adventures outside.

Play_Room_-_Gear_-_IFME-Apr16IFME – Venice
Designed with input from pediatric foot doctors, Japanese newcomer IFME delivers cute, brightly colored footwear that supports healthy foot development. The Venice’s mesh upper keeps tootsies cool and the insole is roomy enough for toes to splay, which can help new walkers balance. $40. Nashwa Children’s Shoes, 1719 NE 16th Ave.

Play_Room_-_Gear_-_Robeez-Apr16Robeez — Lucy Mini Shoe
Nothing can keep a pair of socks on a baby like a pair of Robeez Soft Shoes. But when your tyke starts taking her wobbly self outside, she’ll need soles that can keep her feet dry. Enter the Robeez Mini Shoe, with the same great elastic ankle and super soft leather, but with a non-slip rubber split sole. $18. At Coffee Kids, 8836 N Lombard or 3354 SE Division.

Play_Room_-_Gear_-_KEEN-Apr16KEEN — Chandler II CNX
Hometown footwear company KEEN offers up this lightweight, but sturdy sneaker for tots. The breathable, mesh upper and odor-control footbed keep little toes smelling sweet. The shoe’s most parent-friendly feature are the good-sized loops on the tongue and heel, which make slipping a shoe on a tiny, squirmy foot a snap. $50. KEEN Store, 505 NW 13th and Clogs ‘n More Kids, 3435 SE Hawthorne.

— D.C.

Chalkboard: Talk to me

Apr16_Chalkboard_TalkToMeThis month, Dr. Corey covers what to do if your child isn’t speaking at all by 18 months or so. But what about if they hit school age, and there are still problems — a stutter, or limited speech? First off, they’ll be evaluated by a professional, a licensed speech language pathologist who can check on both their linguistic expression and comprehension. They’ll be on the lookout for issues like hesitation or repetition, sounds/syllables that are excessively drawn out or just a child who can’t be understood despite his best efforts. There’s always the chance that there’s an undetected audio issue, in which case they’ll be seen by an otolaryngologist. Ultimately, kids with diagnosed speech disorders are eligible for an individual education plan and special help at school — so if this meets your kid’s profile, speak up on his behalf.

— J.S.

We Recommend:

Nine times a century, we get to celebrate a “Square Root” day, and this month one of ’em rolls around. So geek out with us on 4.4.16 — maybe celebrate with some
square dancing, or a visit to Pioneer Courthouse Square? Live it up: the next one won’t come around until 5.5.25.

– J.S.

Ask Dr. Corey

Playroom-AskDr.Corey_jan16Q: My 3-year-old son is not speaking in sentences. Should I be worried?

A: The topic of speech and speech delay is one I address frequently in my practice. The ability to communicate with your child is both rewarding and important in easing those toddler frustrations that arise from not understanding exactly which toy your child wants to play with that very second!

More important than that, though, is that timely achievement of speech milestones is crucial in learning how to read, as well as learning how to focus and interact socially. In addition, speech also plays a role in developing writing, spelling and punctuation skills. Speech is so important that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends developmental language screening at every well-child checkup.

Speech is divided into expressive and receptive language. Receptive language is your child’s ability to understand. Expressive language, which we will be discussing for the rest of this column, is basically the ability to talk.

Speech delay, unfortunately, is a common problem. It affects at least 3 percent of all children and may be even more common than this. However, the definition of speech delay is a little fuzzy and is highly dependent on the age of the child. An average 12-month-old will imitate sounds and/or babble. Most kids will have at least one word by 15 months, three to six words by 18 months, and be combining words by 24 to 30 months.

Based on these definitions, a 3-year-old who is not combining words should be evaluated by their physician to determine whether there is an underlying cause of the speech delay and also what the best course of treatment might be. In addition, your child’s doctor can evaluate other areas of development to make sure there are not additional delays that need to be addressed.

In terms of interventions, generally the sooner speech delays are addressed, the easier they are to remedy. For most children, a speech-therapy referral will probably be a part of the treatment plan.

Dr. Corey Fish, a Pacific Northwest native and graduate of the University of Washington School of Medicine, is a pediatrician at Sellwood Medical Clinic. When he is not at work, he likes backcountry skiing with his wife and their border collie/Australian shepherd mix, and playing his guitar. For more info: Got a question for Dr. Corey? Get in touch at editor(at) and we’ll pass it along.

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