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New Documentary Film Portrays Lives of People with IDD, Focuses on IQ Testing

A new documentary, Intelligent Lives, has been released and will be screened at venues around the country in the coming months. The Arc’s national staff got a sneak peak, and the film beautifully portrays the stories of Micah, Naomie, and Naieer as they enter young adulthood, and navigate college, employment, and other opportunities that lie ahead for a life in the community.

We had the opportunity to be a national outreach partner on the film, but we declined because of the film’s approach to the validity of the IQ test. As you know, the IQ test has been misused over the years, and it can be irrelevant to a person’s potential over a lifetime. But it is a part of the diagnostic tool used to set in motion what medical, educational, and community supports an individual may need.

While we recognize that service systems far too often use the IQ number incorrectly and inappropriately to pigeon-hole people with ID and lower expectations, we understand that an IQ score – and its subscores – can provide some useful information. For instance, in our education advocacy, we are focused on ensuring that schools properly focus on the whole of the student, not just the IQ score, and to individually assess and meet the student’s needs as required under federal law.

The Arc, along with a few other organizations, is also a leader in filing amicus briefs in cases where someone with ID is on death row. Despite the Supreme Court’s decisions that it is unconstitutional to execute people with ID, we keep finding ourselves in the position of trying to stop unconstitutional executions of people with ID, and IQ is a key element in our arguments.

For these reasons, The Arc’s national office decided not to be a national outreach partner on this film. We wanted to make you aware of this film, and why we chose to not publicly partner with the film. Questions? Contact Kristen McKiernan (, Senior Executive Officer, Communications and Marketing.