It was difficult for Shauna Graham to keep the image from popping into her mind after she gave birth to her daughter.
Bailey was born with Down syndrome, and Graham said she immediately thought about what her daughter’s future would look like a person who wasn’t able to function.
That soon subsided, especially after a geneticist told her the best piece of advice she’s ever received.
“He said she will reach whatever goals you set for her, so set them high,” Graham said.
And the family has been doing that for Bailey, who is 9 years old.
Graham, of Central City, was among a group of panelists who shared their experiences and thoughts Thursday after a screening of the documentary “Intelligent Lives.” The screening, held at College Park, was hosted by the Arc of Central Nebraska and Grand Island Elks Lodge 604.
The film challenges IQ testing and the limits placed on people with intellectual disabilities through the telling of a story of three young people.
Arc Director Audrey DeFrank said the documentary takes on the idea that intelligence is only measured by the amount of information that you can process in your brain.
“It really strikes home that there are multiple intelligences. It takes on this notion that IQ testing in schools puts children in boxes and on tracks. Students will be going into college prep or special education classes,” DeFrank said.
The young people in the documentary are able to develop and show their talents by not being limited to special education.
Baily did have her IQ tested when she was 6. Graham said her daughter scored in the first percentile, which is low. The test, though, was given in a school Bailey wasn’t familiar with, by a psychologist she didn’t know and had terms not used by the family.
Despite the score, Bailey is now in third grade and is in a second-grade reading group.
Graham said they don’t put limits on Bailey.
“Sometimes we have this perception of where they are going to be at so we don’t push them and when they do little things we overly celebrate,” she said.
According to the documentary, only 17 percent of students with intellectual disabilities are included in regular classrooms. Of the 6.5 million Americans with intellectual disabilities, about 15 percent are employed.
Aimee Steinhardt works to help people with intellectual disabilities find employment. She is the program manager for employment and career services at Goodwill Industries of Greater Nebraska and was also a panelist.
The organization has employment programs for people with developmental disabilities, behavioral health issues, autism, acquired brain injury and others find jobs in the community. Currently, Goodwill works with about 130 people in Grand Island.
IQ tests don’t come into play at all while helping those individuals find work. Rather, they look at getting over obstacles.
“When we look at barriers to employment we don’t even look at their IQ or their disability. We just say, ‘OK, they don’t have transportation, that’s a barrier. They have limited use of their left hand, that’s a barrier. How can we work around that?’” she said.
Some businesses can be hesitant hiring people with developmental disabilities.
“Unfortunately a lot of people don’t see past the barriers. We have so many individuals who can contribute to our community and our businesses. It is important for those individuals to work. They love to work just like everyone else,” Steinhardt said.
Graham said she thinks about Bailey’s future, including employment. Right now, she is focusing on high school graduation.
What Graham said communities can do better for people with developmental disabilities is to be open to having conversations.
“We are so nervous about people who are different. When children stare at Bailey or say she talks different, parents’ reactions is to tell them not to say that. But no, ask about it,” she said.