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The Tentacle


September 19, 2013

A Case for Common Sense

Harry M. Covert

How to deal with those of mental and physical impairments is a serious matter. Awareness and education should begin at family and community levels long before public difficulties ensue.

 

Maryland's governor has created a commission aimed a training First Responders who face the difficult task of handling public or private situations where those with mental and physical impairments are involved.

 

The initial problem in the executive order is the name: the Maryland Commission for Effective Community Inclusion of Individuals with Intellectual and Development Disabilities.

 

This is the result of Robert Ethan Saylor's death on Jan. 12 in Frederick. A Down syndrome young man who succumbed after off-duty sheriff's deputies attempted to remove him from a theater.

 

Without a doubt the situation is tragic not only for the young man and his family but the sheriff's deputies having to deal with the incident.

 

The governor's commission will salve the feelings of many. There's nothing improper about that. However, organizations and professionals are already in place locally, statewide and nationally able to further teach First Responders. The Arc of Frederick County and similar agencies throughout the state have long been major players. They do a grand job.

 

These professionals are readily available for all public agencies. They perform magnificently and can provide incredibly good leadership.

 

Dealing with "special" citizens is not an easy or simple task. Take a look at the tragedies at the Washington Navy Yard. The "shooter's" mental impairments were known but nothing could be done to stop him or to help him.

 

Common sense is the quickest and simplest way to handle those with Down's syndrome. That's this bureau's preferred description. When Mr. Saylor's situation occurred, I was as incensed as others.

 

How to teach common sense is a tough question. But, it begins early on and we must treat our offspring as other siblings, teach our "special" children as normal and use every available method for their happy lives.

 

Schools provide special teachers; they are unsung heroes but are first-class educators.

 

The idea of a large commission, 16-plus members, sounds good but people and facilities are already in place.

 

First Responders means local, state and federal police agencies, sheriff's offices, natural resources agents, U.S. Marshals, ATF, FBI, Secret Service, animal control officers, game wardens, park rangers and many more.

 

The keys though lie with families. The "feel good" commission will only do what's already known.

 

My words are not to pooh-pooh the headlines for the governor or to disrespect Mr. Saylor or the national organizations. The reality is to use every available method to help every citizen.

 

More training is obviously important but local law enforcement agencies are not out there to hurt people. I could teach the class.

 

As a parent of a "special" son, I am blessed. At 47, he leads a productive life, reads, writes and is an expert in the kitchen. At my age, that's more than a joy. He follows all sports, knows the scores, standings, loves music, his family and is active in his church.

 

On the way to church one Sunday, I quizzed him on Bible verses. He reversed the question, what's the shortest verse? Before I could answer he said, "Jesus wept, John 11:35."

 

Recently the phone rang. A friend invited us to a football game at FedEx Field. I mean box seats with lunch. Said my son, "I don't want to go. You know, I don't like the Redskins."

 

We watched the Ravens instead.

 

hmcovert@thecovertletter.com

 



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