A Mother’s Love: Safety and the Police

“There is no love like a mother’s love,” I said through tears at my mother’s funeral. Having a wonderful mother, being a mother and knowing many mothers, I know how true this is. Kudos to all mamas, and those in mothering roles!

I also have great admiration and respect for mothers of special needs children, who are devoted to making sure that their children have the best possible life. You deserve thanks and appreciation every day, not just on Valentine’s Day.

Some mothers take on issues that affect not only their own children, but the larger community. I cannot possibly name the thousands of women (mothers, grandmothers and caregivers) who deserve acknowledgment for their activism and contributions to the welfare of children and families, but consider this message as a Valentine Thank You to each of you.

I would like to recognize one mother who has had to endure the tragic loss of a dear son. Patti Saylor’s son Robert Ethan Saylor died suddenly in January, 2013 at the age of 26. Ethan, a man with Down Syndrome, died on the lobby floor of a Maryland movie theater after an altercation with mall security/off-duty deputies.


His alleged offense? Not paying to see a movie a second time. Things escalated with the worst possible ending. Ethan’s larynx was crushed and his death was ruled a homicide.

A mother’s love lasts longer than her child’s life. It lasts as long as her own heart is beating. Patti has kept her love for Ethan alive by working to prevent another senseless tragedy. She is part of a group working to increase awareness between law enforcement and those with special needs, including training for law enforcement and training for those with disabilities.

Bringing law enforcement and the special needs community together is near and dear to my heart, so I was particularly inspired by Patti’s recent testimony to Congress:

“When you know someone with a disability and have a relationship with that person, it changes your whole being and perspective. At the local level, we have a real opportunity to build relationships with our local law enforcement… It doesn’t take an act of Congress, federal or state mandate, or even money to make you realize that relationships are everything.”

We must assume that everyone can learn to be safe, especially when we resolve to teach them! We take BE SAFE The Movie  on the road to do Interactive Screenings, bringing local police and young adults with disabilities together. They get to know one another. They learn to interact and communicate. We work on specific safety skills, like “Do what the police tell you to do,” and “Follow the law to be safe.” Most of all we improve mutual understanding and help create relationships, which is invaluable.

Patti Saylor read a blog about a recent BE SAFE Interactive Screening. She commented that BE SAFE came too late for Ethan. This brought tears to my eyes, and reminded me that everything can be lost in one brief, unsafe moment.

Ethan’s story gives us the resolve to continue making a difference with BE SAFE The Movie, creating relationships, improving outcomes and preventing another mother’s heartbreak.

Please, don’t leave safety to chance! Whatever tools you want to use, do something about your child’s safety. Make sure that your child, teen or adult with special needs knows how to be safe when interacting with the police.


Comments 3

  1. Mothers of children with special needs are some of the most persistent AND creative people I have come to meet. If a need exists for their child, that can not be met by virtue of non-existence or lack of community awareness, by gosh, a mother to a special needs child will most likely create it or launch it herself!

    I am so proud of Patti’s pursuit to help families and individuals understand how to help themselves when confronted by community personnel in uniform, and no less important, help community service personnel learn more appropriate ways to serve everyone in their community.

    Following my daughter’s major brain surgery at the age of 3 months, we spent thousands of hours in the car traveling to various therapies each day, month after month, year after year. I was compelled to ensure my daughter’s safety, should we get into a car accident and I was unable to communicate her lengthy list of needs to first responders. (My daughter is also non-verbal.) The Emergency Seatbelt ID® was born, along with my advocacy for assisting individuals who struggle to communicate, to stay safe.

    1. Post

      Thank you for writing, Kathryn. We are glad to hear about your safety tool, also born from a mother’s inspiration and a child’s need. Some parents of special needs individuals are also wearing medical alert jewelry to alert first responders if they are ever separated from the person they care for in an emergency. Whatever it takes!

      1. Absolutely Emily! For some it’s a medical alert system, for others it’s ID jewelry or a wallet card, and still others are opting for a tattoo!!

        One advantage of the Emergency Seatbelt ID is its ability to provide significantly more medical and personal info about the user than, for example, 3 or 4 short lines of small inscription most ID jewelry can offer.

        And while it is nice for consumers to have an array of product options, the important piece is to follow through and choose one or more methods of facilitating communication when a citizen’s unique information could influence his/her safety and well-being…

        What we want to see is every citizen’s encounter with community service personnel managed appropriately. It is paramount that commencing education of our community officers on various aspects of the disability community start asap and reach everyone, fire, police, EMTs, Security, etc. and remain as part of their ongoing training.

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