People with cerebral palsy and other disabilities would like society to see them equally. Society has a way to give people with disabilities the term "special" when all we really want is to be seen as normal but needing to do some things differently. Depicting people with disabilities has been lacking in television and movies. But, finally there is a new sitcom on ABC that now sheds a whole new light on what having a disability is really about. Speechless is on Wednesday 8pm ET on the ABC network. I, and several people with cerebral palsy, couldn't be more excited.
When I was growing up, I longed to see someone in a wheelchair star in a movie or television show. Yes, I could relate to characters that didn't have any disability, but it's important to see someone with a disability. It's important because they teach indirectly that having a physical disability is also normal. Perhaps if media saw people with disabilities more than someone that was dying, incoherent or also mentally challenged, then they would expect them to also be just like themselves.
The show, Speechless, depicts a family that include a mom, dad, two sons, and a daughter. One son is JJ and he has cerebral palsy that affects his ability to walk, motor control and speak clearly. The actor who plays JJ is Micah Fowler, and it's really cool that he actually does have cerebral palsy. Many times Hollywood casts people without disabilities to play characters that are disabled. Fowler's cerebral palsy isn't as severe as JJ's so he has to resist the urge to use his hands.
JJ uses a computer to communicate with a laser pointer. He isn't sick, mentally challenged or suffering in any type of way. He's just a normal kid trying to navigate his way in school like everyone else.
His mother, Maya, is played by Minnie Driver. Maya is JJ's biggest advocate and support. She does everything possible to give him an equal playing field in life. She also has to learn how to let go a bit and tend to the needs of her other two children. She adequately depicts what most parents of children with disabilities do for their children on a daily basis. Her love and support of her son is right on point and hits a soft spot in many parents today.
I am very happy with the show overall. My parents also had to fight for me to be in a regular classroom. The fight was even a bit harder back in the 1980s when inclusion was still very much in the infantile stages. My parents fought for me, but I also had to learn to fight for myself. I knew what I'm capable of more than anyone so I needed to let others know as well.
Like JJ in Speechless, I also had an aide in school. She helped me write, fed me lunch and any other physical aspect that I needed in my school day. Luckily, I was fortunate to have the best aide that I could imagine. I realized this whenever my aide needed a day off and they would send in a substitute. Having other clueless aides made me appreciate who I had!
One of the best things about the show Speeches is the use of humor. It is relatable and very much real for those of us who have disabilities. But the humor is for everyone. I love to laugh and sometimes in situations that seem unreal, all you can do is laugh. Sometimes the every day challenges can be the most hilarious. For example, people who don't know me that talk to me like I don't understand anything do make me feel frustrated, but it can also be humorous.
originally written by Jessica Grono published by cerebralpalsynewstoday.com