The Arc Maryland Responds to Governor’s Executive Order to Establish Commission

Governor O’Malley Forms New Commission for Effective Community Inclusion of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

ANNAPOLIS, Md.The Arc Maryland responds to Governor O’Malley’s Executive Order to establish the Maryland Commission for Effective Community Inclusion of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. The Executive Order was created as a response to the tragic death of Frederick County resident Ethan Saylor, who had Down syndrome, in an effort to improve the training of law enforcement, paramedics and other first responders to better respond to people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

In a press statement issued on February 21 (http://blog.thearc.org/2013/02/21/the-arc-responds-to-the…), The Arc Maryland responded to the tragic death of Robert Ethan Saylor: “Sadly, this tragedy could have been prevented…with proper training these officers would have realized there was a better way to work with Robert, as opposed to simply using force – an extreme and unnecessary reaction. This is a moment for us not only to mourn, but we must also learn from this tragedy and encourage proper training in our police departments,” said Kate Fialkowski, Executive Director, The Arc Maryland.

Individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (includes children, youth and adults with disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome) represent 3% of the population living in our communities as valuable contributing citizens. Individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) are disproportionately victimized and disproportionately suspected of criminal activity—7 times more likely to come in contact with law enforcement than the general population. Individuals with I/DD often have co-occurring medical conditions such as neurological, cardiac, or respiratory conditions that make them more vulnerable in stress situations. The use of prone restraints – which is associated with increased risk of asphyxia and aspiration – can result in fatality. (National Review of Restraint Related Deaths of Children and Adults with Disabilities: The Lethal Consequences of Restraint, 2011).

Carol Fried, President of The Arc Maryland said: “It’s our collective responsibility as a community to understand the unique gifts of our fellow community members, but also to ensure that our protective service systems are savvy in ensuring safe treatment of a vulnerable population.”

A comprehensive approach is necessary and The Arc Maryland applauds Governor O’Malley for establishing this Commission. It is critical that our state develops policies and practices for law enforcement and first responders, that there should be a coordinated and comprehensive strategy for response, and all first responders should have appropriate training to effectively respond to individuals with I/DD in a variety of public safety situations.

In its continuing efforts to build awareness and improve community inclusion, The Arc Maryland is scheduled to conduct an introductory training entitled “Law Enforcement Response to Developmental Disabilities” at the Governor’s Fall Criminal Justice Conference on October 10, 2013. In an “Ask Me” format, individuals with developmental disabilities will lead this training.  “The Arc has a long history of criminal justice and first responder training on a national level. We’re happy to contribute our extensive experience in any way that can benefit the state and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families,” said Ms. Fialkowski.

The Arc Responds to the Death of Maryland Man with Down syndrome

Washington, DC – The Arc is deeply saddened and shocked by the death of Robert Ethan Saylor, a young man with Down syndrome whose death last month was ruled a homicide by a Maryland court late last week.  Reports state that when Saylor refused to leave a movie theater, he was pinned face-down on the ground by three off-duty Frederick County sheriff’s deputies who were working security jobs nearby. Shortly after this incident, Saylor was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The Arc believes that all law enforcement professionals should receive crisis intervention training to help them work with individuals with disabilities who find themselves in highly charged emotional situations like Robert did.  There are many ways to help a person with a disability who is upset, scared, anxious, and feeling threatened.  Examples include: learning to recognize the signs that the person with the disability is becoming upset; learning how to evaluate the situation and understand what is provoking the person; learning to communicate in a non-threatening way and to talk the person down or “de-escalate” the situation, and learning how to approach a person with a disability in a way that does not further antagonize them.  Finally, The Arc believes that all law enforcement personnel must learn that prone restraint, or taking a person to the ground and immobilizing them face down, is a very dangerous technique that can lead to tragic outcomes.

“Sadly, this tragedy could have been prevented.  Sometimes there are circumstances that present unique challenges when it comes to dealing with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, especially in high stress situations. With proper training these officers would have realized there was a better way to work with Robert, as opposed to simply using force – an extreme and unnecessary reaction. This is a moment for us not only to mourn, but we must also learn from this tragedy and encourage proper training in our police departments,” said Kate Fialkowski, Executive Director, The Arc of Maryland.

“We would like to extend our deep sympathy to Robert Saylor’s family.  No one should ever die under such circumstances.  This is particularly true for someone at the start of adulthood, so full of life, and with so much more time ahead of him to experience all the joys of having a full adult life,” said Joanna Pierson, Executive Director, The Arc of Frederick County.

A Kid Is a Kid Is a Kid…

Reflections From a Different Journey Book CoverBy Tracy Wright, The Arc of Maryland

The following is an excerpt from “Reflections from a Different Journey: What Adults with Disabilities Wish All Parents Knew” sharing Tracy’s perspective on what she wishes her parents had known about raising a child with a disability 30 years ago. Now an adult, Tracy lives in Rockville, MD with her son and her service dog, working at The Arc of Maryland and volunteering for other organizations helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Two things that my parents should have known while I was growing up are the importance of treating me like any other kid and how to talk openly about disabilities. If they had done that, I would not have spent so much time worrying that it was my fault that I was being treated differently. It also would have helped me to know that I was smart and could learn things, just in a different way.

When I was young, I went to a special education wing in my school. We were kept away from the regular population. It made it hard to know how to make friends and build relationships with people. This didn’t prepare me for the things that were going to be expected of me outside of the special education wing. If I would have been treated the same as other kids in the family and we talked about my disability, it would have helped me to think about my future. No one ever asked me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My family members were afraid to talk about this because no one knew what my future could be.

Kids with disabilities are going to grow up. They need to think about a future and plan like anybody else. If we had been more open about my disability, maybe we could have talked about my future. We also might have looked for more options, rather than just where the “special” people went to live.

Remember, when you get caught up in the whole disability thing, enjoy all your children. Even try to enjoy the struggles—it will make you a better person. Disability does not have to be this bad thing that people cannot get past to enjoy and live life. You just might have to go about it in a little different way.

Want to learn about “Reflections from a Different Journey: What Adults with Disabilities Wish All Parents Knew”? (McGraw-Hill, 2004; DisABILITIESBOOKS, 2011)  Visit www.disabilitiesbooks.com. A portion of sales benefits The Arc. When you order online, please enter “The Arc” into the Your Comments space at the end of the Payments page. To order by mail: send $31 to: DisABILITIESBOOKS, 44 Washington Street, #913, Brookline, MA 02445. Write The Arc on your check.