The struggle and stigma of intellectual disabilities highlighted in movie Intelligent Lives

aheymann@vagazette.com

The award-winning documentary “Intelligent Lives” will have a special screening, followed by a community discussion, at the Kimball Theatre Sunday.

The event is sponsored by the Arc of Greater Williamsburg, PELE Special Education Advocacy Clinic at the William and Mary Law School and the William and Mary School of Education.

Christina Jones, director of PELE, said the film follows the story of three people with intellectual disabilities as they try to navigate the world.

“I think it's important we realize that what we see on the screen can happen in our community with advocacy and the business community and other leaders coming together to address it,” Jones said.

This is the second community conversation movie screening the groups have put on according to Pamela McGregor, executive director of the Arc of Greater Williamsburg.

One reason she said this topic is important is because many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities stop receiving help at 22, when special education in schools ends.

“After all those years of having mentors and people helping families navigate the system, whether it be the education system or any resources available to them, it abruptly ends,” McGregor said. “The Arc is the only organization in town that is serving this group of people … we have clients age 20-71.”

The Arc is a foundation that provides day programming, such as job and life skills training, for adults with intellectual disabilities area.

“We are starting to partner more with businesses in the community who are very interested in hiring and working with our clients,” McGregor said.

McGregor said people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are able to maintain and excel at a job like anyone else.

“Just like I’m not equipped to be a brain surgeon, but I have other abilities — same with my clients,” McGregor said. “None of us should be judging what people’s abilities are, but giving them opportunities and giving them a chance to really succeed.”

One example McGregor gave was she met a woman who owned a McDonalds. The woman’s best friend had a son with Down syndrome and asked her to give him a job at the restaurant.

McGregor said the owner finally decided to hire the son, and he ended up being one of the best workers there.

“Ten minutes early is on time, always in his uniform, perfect customer service, always busy and then the other young kids that worked for her started to emulate his example and became friends with him,” McGregor said. “She said ‘It broke down so many of my misconceptions.’ ”

Jones added watching “Intelligent Lives” made her appreciate how driven the people in the movie were to accomplish their goals.

She said she hopes the screening brings out all cross-sections of the community to discuss and address this issue.

“It's going to take all of us coming together to provide some additional support for these families and to recognize these individuals have a lot to offer our community if they’re given an opportunity,” Jones said.

Want to attend?

The movie screening and discussion is from 2-4 p.m. Sunday at the Kimball Theater, 428 W Duke of Gloucester St.

Tickets are free, but you must reserve them ahead of time online. You can find the link at thearcgw.org, as well as more information about the Arc of greater Williamsburg, and the services they provide.

For more information about PELE and their services, visit law.wm.edu/pele/.

Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.

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