Patti Saylor to be honored nationally for advocacy

Patti Saylor will be honored with the National Down Syndrome Society’s Advocate of the Year award at an event in Washington later this month, the group announced Friday.

Saylor, of New Market, advocated for her son Ethan all his life, but took on a new role after his death.

Ethan Saylor, 26, died in January 2013 while he was being forcibly removed from a Frederick movie theater by three off-duty sheriff’s deputies.

Since Ethan Saylor’s death, Patti Saylor and her family have advocated for changes in police training and for better inclusion policies, among other things.

“I’m very honored,” Patti Saylor said Friday about the award. “I think the night will be a little difficult. It will be bittersweet because of the reason.” Continue reading Patti Saylor to be honored nationally for advocacy

News-Post: Judge criticizes use of force in Saylor case

A U.S. District Court judge’s opinion this week — which allowed a lawsuit filed by the family of Ethan Saylor to go forward — dwelled on issues of state police training and excessive use of force, topics brought to the state and national spotlight after Saylor’s death in 2013.

In a decision released Thursday, Judge William M. Nickerson wrote that he would not dismiss all claims against three Frederick County sheriff’s deputies or the state of Maryland because there was evidence the deputies violated Saylor’s constitutional rights and the state could be held responsible for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act for improperly training them.

Nickerson indicated that his position was based on the allegations in the family’s initial complaint and could change as the case carries forward and more evidence is introduced.

In a lawsuit filed last October, Saylor’s estate alleged violations of his civil rights and of the Americans with Disabilities Act by the state, county sheriff’s deputies, and the companies where the men were moonlighting as security guards at the Regal Cinemas Westview Stadium 16 theater.

Saylor, 26, of New Market, had Down syndrome and died Jan. 12, 2013, from a lack of oxygen while being forcibly removed by the deputies after he tried to stay for a second showing of the movie “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Saylor died of asphyxia with a fractured larynx, according to the state medical examiner’s office, which ruled the death a homicide. A Frederick County grand jury declined to indict the deputies.

In separate motions, attorneys for the deputies, Regal and the state of Maryland all asked the judge to dismiss all claims against them.

In dismissing each of the claims against Regal Cinemas, Nickerson wrote that the actions of the manager in calling for help from security were too far removed from the actual action taken by the sheriff’s deputies. Continue reading News-Post: Judge criticizes use of force in Saylor case

PBS: Shedding a limiting label to embrace a new identity as artist

If you attend an art show at Arc of the Arts, a studio in Austin, Texas, you’ll find paintings and drawings, jewelry and flash animation. The studio houses over 60 artists a week, all of whom are adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“I think there is this misunderstanding that people with disabilities can’t create art that is just as good as any of the art out there and so I think highlighting that at a lot of the shows is eye-opening,” said Andrew Grimes, lead art instructor at Arc of the Arts.

Each artist that passes weekly through their doors receives comprehensive, individualized instruction.

“We really don’t focus in on the disability too much, it’s more about their interests in the art,” said Ann Alva Wieding, the program manager at the studio. “The lessons are really what you’d find in a college level art course. We’ve just slowed down the pace a little bit and we do some repetition with it.”

The artists sell their pieces, oftentimes learning the marketing skills to help promote the work that they create. Wieding says that having a final product really boosts self-esteem.

“For a lot of people with disabilities, they’ve had a label most of their life. Now, suddenly, they become an artist and they’re not carrying around that label anymore.”

People with developmental disabilities can struggle to find educational opportunities or a professional outlet, but Arc of the Arts believes the “bridge” they’ve created to the community can help fill that void.

“It’s a great way of self-expression, especially for some people who have communication disabilities,” said Wieding. “They may not have a very strong voice with which to share their story, but they have now a medium that they can display what they are really interested in to the world.”

The Spirit Club

Their mission  is to create socially inclusive and integrated opportunities for those who may need extra guidance and encouragement to learn to maintain and appreciate a healthy & active lifestyle.

From the Spirit Club website:  “The S.P.I.R.I.T. Club (acronym for Social, Physical, Interactive, Respectful, Inclusive & Teamwork) is an 8-week health and fitness program for teens and adults with developmental disabilities. Since April 2013, our weekly class of 6 people has grown to 6 weekly classes of over 60 people!

Physically, the S.P.I.R.I.T. Club focuses on improving its member’s balance, stability, flexibility, agility, strength, cardiovascular endurance and nutritional habits. Mentally and emotionally, the program is designed to encourage high levels of social interaction and integration to ensure that every member feels comfortable and excited about the healthy and active choices that they are making. Each class meets once per week and lasts for one hour.”

Impaired Prediction Ability May Be Behind Autism

From Disability Scoop (a source for Developmental Disability news)The brain is a biological machine that makes predictions. But what happens when a wrench is thrown in the works, and jams up the ability to foresee the trajectory of a moving object, or what happens after a frown?

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology believe such a wrench lies at the core of autism, a disorder with widely disparate symptoms that strike with varied intensity.

Social and language deficits, repetitive behavior, hypersensitivity to stimuli and other symptoms may be manifestations of an impaired ability to predict the behavior of the outside world, according to an analysis published online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

An impairment in the ability to place stimuli in context with what came before and after them leaves people with autism struggling with a seemingly capricious world that makes excruciating demands on their attention, according to the report.

Continue reading Impaired Prediction Ability May Be Behind Autism

NYT: A Couple Gaining Independence, and Finding a Bond

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Sunday wedding that was months away, then weeks away, then days away, is now hours away, and there is so much still to do. The bride is panicking, and the groom is trying to calm her between anxious puffs of his cigarette.

Peter and Lori are on their own.

With time running out, they visit a salon to have Lori’s reddish-brown hair coiled into ringlets. They pay $184 for a two-tier cake at Stop & Shop, where the checkout clerk in Lane 1 wishes them good luck. They buy 30 helium balloons, only to have Peter realize in the Party City parking lot that the bouncing bobble will never squeeze into his car.

Lori, who is feeling the time pressure, insists that she can hold the balloons out the passenger-side window. A doubtful Peter reluctantly gives in.

“I’ve got them,” she says. “Don’t worry.”

Peter Maxmean, 35, and Lori Sousa, 48, met five years ago at a sheltered workshop in North Providence, where people with intellectual disabilities performed repetitive jobs for little pay, in isolation. But when a federal investigation turned that workshop upside down last year, among those tumbling into the daylight were two people who had fallen in love within its cinder block walls.

Continue reading NYT: A Couple Gaining Independence, and Finding a Bond