Tuesdays with Liz: Director Dan Habib Talks Going Beyond IQ



Hello, and welcome to another edition of ‘Tuesdays
with Liz: Disability Policy for All.’ I’m really excited to be talking to Dan
Habib, who is a film director at the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire, so welcome Dan. Thank you, Liz. Thanks so much for having me. It’s an honor. I understand your upcoming film is about intelligence. And, what does intelligence mean? Wow, it’s a big question, and kind of a
different question that different people would answer in different ways. You know, I started this film, which is called
‘Intelligence Lives,’ because somebody really challenged me to explore the whole
issue of intelligence years ago. A guy named Doug Biklen, who is the Dean of
Education at Syracuse said, “You know Dan, you’ve made all these films, including ‘Samuel’
and ‘Who Cares About Kelsey?’ that have looked at people with different kinds of disabilities,
but until we help people see intelligence in a very different way, people with disabilities
will continue to have roadblocks towards employment, towards education, in relationships.” He said, “You know, I challenge you to kind
of take a new look at intelligence.” And so, what I started to do was do a lot
of research around how we started defining intelligence, through IQ scores and other
measures. And then I started finding people who were
showing their intelligence in really different ways. Through art, through social communication,
through their ability to work really hard, or whatever it might be, and I found three
different people for this film that show intelligence in ways that really can’t be measured: (1)
Micah Fialka-Feldman, (2) Naieer Shaheed, and (3) Naomie Monplaisir. So the film really follows these three people
as they show their abilities and their intelligence and their capacity in really amazing ways,
and all of whom have disabilities. Thank you. The next question is: What type of intelligence
does IQ testing miss? My son Samuel did go through both a couple
of different assessments. One was – would be considered kind of like
an IQ test or a cognitive assessment, but we told the people right from the beginning,
I don’t want any numbers. I just want to understand where Samuel has
some challenges in learning, and where he has strengths. And I found the test to be very – not a
good representation of Samuel's abilities. They were pointing to different
shapes and trying to see if he was understanding certain words, but if you have significant
physical challenges or verbal challenges, I think it’s very hard for those tests to
measure anything accurately. At least from my experience. Whereas somebody like Naieer, who’s in my
film, who’s a high school senior, a beautiful artist, can his intelligence be measured by
an intelligence test? I don’t think so. Or someone like our mutual friend, Micah Fialka-Feldman, who’s a
college student at Syracuse University, has a really vibrant social life, is working
at the school, is teaching, he was given an IQ of 40, which would have been called profoundly
intellectually disabled, and here he has this very full life. So, you know what does the intelligence test
really measure? I understand the importance of kind of, standardized
testing to kind of create eligibility for services, but I think it also has a flip side
that can be very damaging. It can label somebody with this number that
stays with them their whole life and can really affect other people’s expectations for them. And that’s very, very dangerous. Why is it dangerous? Well, I think anytime someone has low expectations
for them, they’re not being given opportunities, like to be included in regular education,
in schools. They may not have a pathway to college. They may not be seen as someone who can work. They may not be seen as someone who can be
in a relationship. So, I think that any time you assign someone
a number that suggests that they may not be capable, the expectations for those people
go down. The supports for those people may not be as
available, and I think just the whole attitude of society becomes, these people are not worth
an investment of our time and energy, and that, that’s very dangerous. Thank you. The last question is: Why do you think many
professionals think it’s important to have IQ for people, given what you just said? Right, we haven’t developed many better systems. There is an assessment called the ‘Support
Intensity Scale’ that’s being used around the country quite a bit, that AAIDD helped
develop, and Mike Wehmeyer, who’s a consultant on the project, helped develop, and we
did that with Samuel as well, because that’s how in New Hampshire they help determine what
type of adult services that you’re going to be eligible for. And I actually found that to be a very effective
process, where they really look to Samuel’s support needs as a whole person in every aspect
of his life and that one felt a lot more relevant than the IQ test, but I think the fact is
that in many states around the country, the IQ test has become the go-to assessment to
determine whether a student should be in a general education classroom or not, whether
they are eligible for services or not, even whether they would be eligible for the death
penalty or not if they committed a crime, and so I think until we start to move our
society towards different types of ways of seeing intelligence. Different ways of types of creating eligibility
for services, like the ‘Support Intensity Scale,’ the IQ test is kind of the go to
tool. And I think people like to, unfortunately,
assign numbers. They like to have a numeric quantification
for this is where this person is at. And I also think that’s a really dangerous
approach to humanity. You know, I think no human should be reduced
to a number. And unfortunately, I know the IQ test isn’t
intended to do that, but in speaking with families all over the country, that’s what
it feels like. It feels like, their child or their brother
or their sister has been given this number that becomes a big part of their identity
and that can be very destructive. Thank you. For our audience: What is AAIDD? The 'American Association on Intellectual
and Developmental Disabilities.' They’re one of the partners on this film
project. We have about thirty national outreach partners,
and when the film comes out in Spring 2018 we’re going to be working with these partners
to get the word out, AUCD is certainly another partner, so we’ll be talking to you more
about it. And we’re also putting together four short
films on postsecondary transition. Just showing all over the country what are
seen as the most promising practices for helping students with disabilities transition from
high school into college and career. So, as long as people go to the ‘Intelligent
Lives’ Facebook page or our website intelligentlives.org, they’ll be able to learn all these things
that are happening around the film. When they’re being released, when they’re
going to be available, so I’m really excited to get that to you Liz, to show you the new
film soon, and to all of your listeners. And thank you Dan for taking the time to talk
with us today. See you next week.

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