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

Transition to Washington centers around son with Down syndrome

FROM THE WASHINGTON POST Barry and Kim Trotz figured familiarity could guide their youngest child through the biggest change of his life, so first they made sure to find 13-year-old Nolan a decent Tex-Mex restaurant. On the eve of Washington Capitals training camp, the final day of the offseason, the family dined at El Paso Cafe in Arlington, where Nolan had grown to love the salsa during their regular stops since moving here this summer.

“He’s a staple guy,” Barry Trotz says of his son, who was born with Down syndrome. But the new Capitals head coach also knows Nolan as many other things: a fearless adventurer, a strong swimmer, an ace at Wii baseball, a lover of spicy foods, a flirt around his sister’s friends and a prankster at dinner parties, a kid whose smile made hockey losses feel okay.

Raising a special needs son, the Trotzes usually worry about not doing enough, but in their new city, they lately have been feeling like they have too much piled on their plates.

They picked their Clarendon home based on Nolan’s needs, and at first it seemed ideal: grassy parks down the block, middle school within biking distance (either Barry or Kim steering the family tandem and Nolan riding in back), neighboring adults who invited them to an ice cream party and whose daughters knocked on the front door to invite Nolan to play kickball.

“Which never happens when you have a special needs kid,” Barry said.

But summer soon ended. No more knocking, no more kickball. Then school started, and Nolan’s teacher was great, but a new environment with less individual attention led to acting out in class. At home, Nolan had grown quieter since the family completed its move in late August. Vocalizing his feelings had always been a struggle, a product of his condition.

“I wish we could get in there for a couple minutes,” Kim said, meaning Nolan’s thoughts.

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WashPost: Spirit moves them: Fitness program is tailored to people with developmental disabilities

Don’t ever challenge Sam Smith to an enthusiasm contest.

The 29-year-old fitness instructor has the booming voice of a radio announcer, the optimistic outlook of a cheerleader and the boundless endurance of a marathon runner. (He’s finished four.) So when he starts a warmup by shouting, “Welcome to Spirit Club! Let’s clap it out,” it’s impossible not to put your hands together.

There’s no question the program Smith is leading deserves the applause. Spirit — which stands for “Social Physical Interactive Respectful Inclusive Teamwork” — offers classes that help clients with developmental disabilities build muscle, increase flexibility and improve their diets. As a population, they have limited opportunities when it comes to health, Smith says. “And a lot need more social interaction,” he adds.

What makes Smith such an expert? He’s a certified personal trainer, and he also has autism.

“Sam gets them engaged more than a typically functioning trainer would be able to,” says Jared Ciner, who launched Spirit in April 2013. Ciner had two jobs at the time: as a personal trainer at Sport & Health, the local gym chain, and as a support counselor with the Jubilee Association of Maryland, which provides residential services to disabled adults.

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L’Arche GWDC Hosts Traveling Ark

from their site: ”

Walton Schofield shows off one of the five arks traveling the world in celebration of L’Arche’s 50th anniversary. Photo ©Brian A Taylor

Shortly after Jean Vanier, Philippe Seux, and Rappahël Simi moved in to a small home in Trosly-Breuil, France, Jean asked his friend Jacqueline d’Halluin help him name the house.

“She suggested about a hundred names,” Jean writes in his book An Ark for the Poor. “When she said ‘L’Arche,’ I knew without any hesitation that that was it.”

Only later did Jean realize the symbolism of the word, which means the ark in French. The story of Noah’s ark – a boat of salvation for God’s people – appears in Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu scripture as well as they mythology of other early cultures, and aptly symbolizes a place where people can find safety from life’s raging storms.

Today, there are L’Arche 146 communities in 39 countries where people with and without intellectual disabilities share their lives together. Born in 1964 out of the Roman Catholic tradition, communities today focus their spirituality around Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and inter-faith traditions. While each has its own unique characteristics, they share common core values of dignity, relationship, spirituality, sharing life in community, and solidarity with one another.

This year the International Federation is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of that first small home by passing five wooden arks from community to community. Each ark can be opened to reveal three levels in which pictures, signatures, and inscriptions are being collected.

L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C. hosted one of the traveling arks July 1-11. During its stay, the community re-enacted the story of Noah’s ark with founding core member Michael Schaff playing the leading role.

When asked how the L’Arche community is like Noah’s ark, members responded, “It’s a safe place,” “God is with us,” and “We’re a family.”

Once the arks have traveled to the all the communities they will land in France for a final celebration. Each country will also send a pair of representatives, symbolic of the animals going two-by-two into the safety of the ark.”

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Smithsonian Folklife Festival Accessible to Visitors with Disabilities

The Smithsonian Institution is committed to making the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival accessible and enjoyable for visitors with disabilities. The 2014 Festival features “China: Tradition and the Art of Living” and “Kenya: Mambo Poa.”

The Festival will be held Wednesday, June 25, through Sunday, June 29, and Wednesday, July 2, through Sunday, July 6, outdoors on the National Mall between Seventh and 14th streets. Admission is free. Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, with special evening events beginning at 6 p.m. The Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service.

Visitors with disabilities who need assistance are advised to report to the Information booths located at various points around the Festival site or to the Volunteer tent located in the Festival Services area near the Smithsonian Metrorail station’s Mall exit. A large-print version of the Festival’s daily schedule and food concession menus will be available. The Festival schedule is also available in audio format. A limited number of wheelchairs will be available at the Volunteer tent for loan.

American Sign Language interpreters will be on site daily to interpret selected performances and presentations. An additional ASL interpreter is on site each day and can be reached via the Volunteer tent for visitors with requests beyond the scheduled events. Real-time captioning (CART) will be provided for selected performances and presentations. Refer to the online Festival schedule for the complete times and dates of ASL and CART services, or pick up an updated schedule of interpreted events from the Volunteer tent or Information booths.

Verbal-description and tactile tours are scheduled for Saturday, June 28, at 1 p.m. and Thursday, July 3, at 3 p.m. for visitors who are blind or have low vision. The Festival will open at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 28, to host “Morning at the Mall” with pre-visit materials for families with children with cognitive and sensory processing disabilities. Visitors interested should RSVP for both events by calling (202) 633-2921 or emailing

All performance stages and narrative stages, the Flavors of Kenya stage and the Five Spice Kitchen are equipped with induction loops; receivers are available in each tent from a volunteer or Festival staff member. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival welcomes all service animals.

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Design for Life Tax Incentive Program

“Design for Life Montgomery” legislation — Bill 5-13 – Property Tax Credits–Accessibility – goes into effect July 1. The new Maryland law provides tax credits to builders and homeowners for including features in new and existing residential housing that improve accessibility for persons of all ages, including seniors and those with disabilities. With this new law, the entire stock of more accessible single-family homes, apartments and condominiums in the County will increase, creating a more inclusive community.

The bill will provide for a property tax credit for an accessibility feature installed on an existing residence; provide for a property tax credit for meeting a Level I or Level II accessibility standard on a new single family residence; provide for an impact tax credit against the Development Impact Tax for Public School Improvements for meeting a Level I accessibility standard; and generally amend the County law regarding property tax credits. This bill will provide tax credits to builders and homeowners for including Level I visit-ability (up to $3,000) and Level II live-ability (up to $10,000) accessibility features in new and existing single family attached and detached homes. The impact tax credits for builders will be for new construction in single family attached and detached homes.

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“Mamie’s Mile Gets Us Walking on Mass Ave”

Mamie’s Mile is a one mile walk in the Spring Valley neighborhood of town for anyone who wants to support the National Down Syndrome Society.  Mamie’s Mile was founded by husband and wife Teddy Eynon and Elizabeth Manresa who lost their daughter Mamie Grace, who had Down Syndrome, due to complications during heart surgery when she was just a baby.  But life is about recognizing the worst and most devastating situations and turning them into good, as this couple courageously did.

WPOST: Bullied autistic boy says girlfriend accused of assaulting him wanted relationship secret

The teen who’d been bullied and assaulted didn’t want to talk at first.

It was late March, and I had just interviewed the autistic 16-year-old’s mother at a Southern Maryland pizzeria. She brought me back to her home in St. Mary’s County to see whether her high-functioning son, whose alleged abuse by two girls from his high school has generated outrage, would want to recount what had happened.

According to the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department charging documents, the older of the two girls allegedly held a large kitchen knife to the boy’s throat — twice. Another time, both girls coerced him into walking over a frozen pond, into which he fell numerous times while they stood by and videotaped on a cellphone.

The parents, who want the girls jailed for a long time, hoped that since he wasn’t talking much about the case to them, maybe he’d open up to me. He listened to my pitch, emphatically said no, and then retreated to his bedroom.

But two weeks later, the boy changed his mind. The boy, who wants to be identified by his middle name, Michael, decided it was time for him to offer his perspective. Surprisingly, Michael wanted to publicly advocate for the two Chopticon High School students charged: Lauren A. Bush, 17, who has been charged as an adult, and his 15-year-old girlfriend, who was charged as a juvenile and whose cellphone contained footage of the assaults that led to their arrest in early March. (The Washington Post generally does not identify juveniles.)

Continue reading WPOST: Bullied autistic boy says girlfriend accused of assaulting him wanted relationship secret

WPOST: Mother testifies before Senate panel about son’s death at Frederick deputies’ hands

Patti Saylor appeared before members of a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday and told them about her son, who loved law enforcement, who would sing in the voice mails he left his family and who, if he hadn’t died after being forced from a movie theater by three off-duty Frederick County deputies, would want to sit with the members of the committee, “because that’s where all the important people sit.”

More than a year after the death of Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old man with Down syndrome, his mother continues to fight for him and others like him.

Her testimony came at a hearing chaired by Sen. Richard J. (D-Ill.) titled “Law Enforcement Responses to Disabled Americans: Promising Approaches for Protecting Public Safety.”

“I want to tell you firsthand that today’s hearing will save future lives,” Saylor said.

Continue reading WPOST: Mother testifies before Senate panel about son’s death at Frederick deputies’ hands

WPOST: Shari Gelman, who started Ivymount School for children with disabilities, dies at 88

 By Megan McDonough, Published: April 29

Early in her teaching career, Shari Gelman was asked to work as a substitute at a Montgomery County preschool for children with developmental, intellectual and cognitive disabilities. She was nervous, she recalled, and told the director she had no experience with special-needs kids.

“Hey, they are children,” the director said. Mrs. Gelman soon reported for work.

“I went in, and the first day I was there I was absolutely blown away,” she once told an interviewer. “There were several children with autism — although we were not calling it this very often at that time — and a couple with Down syndrome and a mixture of disabilities. I came home, and I was devastated in terms of how parents handled this at home and how difficult it must be.”

At the time, there was a lack of such programs in the public school system — and almost none that offered learning opportunities for children who had multiple disabilities. It would be at least 20 years before federal law required schools to provide appropriate special education and related services for children with disabilities.

For Mrs. Gelman, who died Tuesday at age 88, working at the nursery school was the spark that led her to start what is now the Ivymount School, one of the earliest and best-regarded Washington area educational centers for students with complex learning, language, physical or emotional disabilities.

Mrs. Gelman started the school in 1961 in the educational building at Christ Lutheran Church in Bethesda. She called it the Christ Church Child Center, and she was the sole staff member, serving in a dual role as teacher and director. There was one student and his educational aide.

Under her direction, the school gradually enlisted a wide array of specialists, including behavioral, language, art, music and dance specialists, to meet the complex needs of its students.

“Kids could get everything in one place, including speech, occupational and physical therapy,” Lillian Davis, the school’s former assistant director, said in an interview with The Washington Post.

“If there was a group that didn’t have their needs being met, that is where we could really be of service,” Mrs. Gelman said in a 2010 history of the school.

Over time, local public school systems began referring special-needs students to Christ Church Child Center. To meet the increasing demand, the school had to borrow space from several other Montgomery County churches before the program was consolidated into one building and given a permanent home at the old Georgetown Hill Elementary School site in Rockville in 1985. It was renamed Ivymount.

“I always thought we were on the cutting edge. Lots of times we would originate programs that did not exist and I think other places were playing catchup,” Mrs. Gelman said in the school history. “Many times, I think we were one of the first to develop these kinds of programs.”

The school expanded its programming to meet the constantly changing needs of its growing student population and eventually increased the student age limit from 12 to 21.

“The teachers here look at the children as individuals,” Dorothy Burger, a mother of a student at the school, once told The Post. “They make the program work for the child rather than have the child fit into the program.”

By the time Mrs. Gelman retired in 1997, the school had grown to 140 students and more than 100 staff members. More than 1,500 students have graduated from Ivymount since its establishment.

The school twice received the Blue Ribbon, the highest academic honor the U.S. Department of Education can bestow on a school. Mrs. Gelman also received The Post’s Distinguished Education Leadership Award in 1991.

“Shari was one of the most empathetic people I have ever met. She would feel what the kids were feeling and what the parents were feeling,” Davis told The Post in a recent interview. “I don’t think she ever met a kid she didn’t like and couldn’t help.”

Shari Miriam Einfrank was born Dec. 30, 1925, in Passaic, N.J. She was a 1947 graduate of New Jersey State Teachers College at Jersey City, now New Jersey City University. In 1957, she received a master’s degree in human development from the University of Maryland.

She served on the board of the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes and numerous summer programs and recreational programs for children with disabilities. She chaired the special needs committee of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville and was a member of the Advisory Board of Potomac Community Resources.

Her husband of 66 years, Robert Gelman, died in 2013. Survivors include two children, Ona Bunce of Bethesda and Morris Gelman of Falls Church; and two grandsons.

Mrs. Gelman, a longtime Bethesda resident, died at a continuing care center in Bethesda of complications of lymphoma, said her daughter.

Her impressions the first day of substitute teaching would stay with her and motivate her career educating students with disabilities. As she recalled in 2010, “I woke up the next day, and said, ‘If I’m not going to do it, who is going to do it?’ ”

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