TEACHER OF PATIENCE Interview with Carmen Vincent & Tom Felter - advocating and providing educational resources for people with down syndrome

TEACHER OF PATIENCE Interview with Carmen Vincent & Tom Felter - advocating and providing educational resources for people with down syndrome

Carmen Vincent is the director, producer and editor of TEACHER OF PATIENCE.
Tom Felter is featured in the documentary and developed The Emily Talk.


Why did you make this film?

I was inspired to tell this story because we don't often see on screen what it looks like to be a smalltown advocate. Being in Northwest Indiana, this was an opportunity to show that amazing things happen outside of the hubs that we hear so much about like New York and Los Angeles –– we have some major movers and shakers out here in the corn fields, too. As a member of the disability community myself, I was immeditiately invested in the Felter's story because it addresses a major need in our community. Disability education for our first responders is vital, but lacking, and the Felter's are doing all they can to fulfill that need. On top of that, they are completely open about the struggles and joys of their own lives. I saw an opportunity to show that advocates don't have to be perfect or live perfect lives – they can be rough around the edges, which is human. That's what I love about the Felter's, they're human and they don't try to hide it – they use it to teach others.

For you, what is most important that audiences take away from your film?

I hope that anyone who watches this film comes away with peaked curiosity. I want to inspire people to be hungry to learn more. More than that, though, I would love for people to walk away from this film having just a little bit more empathy for their neighbors. We are so quick to judge each other, so quick to point fingers and condemn each other, and I hope that this film makes a good case for why we all deserve to be treated with a little more patience and empathy.

Why is this film relevant to our current moment?

The film’s cultural relevance stems from years of inequitable treatment of those with Down syndrome and other disabilities. In The Emily Talk, Tom makes it clear that his impetus for presenting to first responders is to prevent tragedies that happen all-too-often, like when Ethan Saylor, a young man with Down syndrome, died of asphyxiation due to three deputies holding him down to the ground for too long when he wouldn’t leave the movie theater. He didn’t want to leave the theater because he was dead set on watching the next movie after the one he paid for ended. The deputies took action by pinning him to the ground instead of waiting for his caregiver to arrive at the theater. As Tom says in the Emily Talk, "In the same situation, that could have been Emily."

The purpose of the film is to show stories like Emily’s and the efforts she and her family are taking to educate first responders and the general community so tragedies like the one that happened to Ethan Saylor don’t happen again. Tom urges first responders to be patient with individuals who have Down syndrome and other disabilities, because patience could have prevented Ethan Saylor’s death, and many others like his.

Ultimately, this documentary was created to serve as an educational tool for first responders, a source of validation and comfort for families touched by disability, and kindling for open-minded discussion about disability, inclusion, equity, and accessibility.

Why did you choose to participate in this film?

This film is just a fantastic vehicle that is helping emergency services workers and the wider community understand Emily and how she perceives the world. With that understanding comes the knowledge necessary to better interact with Emily and others with disabilities.

What impact has this film had on your life?

This film has had an enormous, wonderful, life changing impact on Emily and her family. Emily and her story has been shared worldwide, giving us the ability to help folks understand and appreciate Emily.

What topics do you address in discussions with educators, students and community members?

As part of film Q&A, and as part of The Emily Talk, we encourage discussions on any relative topic. We have talked about larger/global issues such as schooling, entering the work force and the financial impact of a developmental disability. We have also talked about Emily’s day-to-day…what is a typical day…favorite foods, etc. So far, nothing has been deemed “off-limits.”

Bring the documentary TEACHER OF PATIENCE and the speakers to your campus + community