Earlier this month Phil Hayes, our New England Representative, had the opportunity to participate with his family in a unique experience highlighting the inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities in greater Swampscott, Massachusetts.
At an event co-sponsored by Swampscott Public Schools Student Services, TASH New England, and Swampscott Unites, Respects and Embraces (S.U.R.E) Diversity, Phil’s wife Lisa Julien-Hayes and twelve-year-old son Cole were selected as panelists during the screening of Intelligent Lives, a film by Dan Habib that highlights the origin and history of IQ tests and their long-term impact on society. Woven into the storyline are the backstories of three young adults with intellectual disabilities as they navigate high school, college, and the workforce.
In a local newspaper story promoting the screening, we learn more about Phil and Lisa’s experience as they worked to raise a child with sensory processing disorder and autism and advocated for inclusion in the community and the classroom.
We asked Phil to answer a few questions about his family’s experience; the local newspaper also published a follow-up story with feedback from Cole, Lisa, and the other panelists.
How were Cole and Lisa selected to be panelists for the screening?
Lisa is the chair of the Swampscott Public Schools special education parent advisory committee. Cole has ASD and is beginning to self-advocate. The chairs of SURE Diversity also thought we would be a good fit for the panel.
What was the reaction to the film overall?
Everyone was profoundly affected by the film and its themes. Many viewers think it should be mandatory viewing for middle and high schoolers. Many people thanked the panel for their efforts to make our town more inclusive. Several viewers shared their personal experiences.
What types of comments and questions did people have?
People wanted to know what inclusion looked like in Swampscott and what we were doing to improve our inclusion practices.
Did anyone ask Cole any questions and/or what did he have to say?
Cole was asked about his thoughts on the film and how he felt about inclusion. He was a little nervous to answer; he said he really liked the film and was inspired by the featured persons.
Could you talk about your experience as a dad of a son with Autism? What supports/support systems have best worked for your family?
As a dad, every day is a learning experience and is a lifelong learning mission. The best supports are my son having a really incredible mother and for me trying to be understanding, caring, and patient.
What did you think about the film? Did you have a favorite scene or one that was more meaningful/relatable to you?
The film was very powerful and much more than I expected. I would say the most powerful scene is the narrator speaking about his son and how he positively affected others and how that would not have happened if not for the support of his parents to help him and let him grow. What was relatable to me was the power of inclusion and being accepted and appreciated as a person that contributes to the success of anyone within the larger picture of society.
For more information on the Intelligent Lives film or to find a screening near you, visit: https://intelligentlives.org/
Feature Image Credit: Wicked Local: Intelligent Lives discussion panel Cole Hayes, advocate; Lisa Julien-Hayes, parent; Martha Raymond, Swampscott Public Schools; Emma Fialka-Feldman, TASH New England; and Ralph Edwards, SURE Diversity/TASH New England.