Speechless | Teen Ink

Speechless MAG

December 14, 2018
By logangg710 GOLD, Georgetown, Texas
logangg710 GOLD, Georgetown, Texas
10 articles 0 photos 0 comments

A little over two years ago, a television series unlike any other made its debut, and on a major network, no less. That series is none other than ABC’s Speechless, which focuses on the young  JJ DiMeo, a high school kid with cerebral palsy, and his oddball dysfunctional family.What makes this show so great? It tackles the topic of disability with lighthearted comedy and a few life lessons sprinkled in at the conclusion of each episode. The subject matter is handled perfectly, thanks to show creator Scott Silveri, who developed the show based on his experiences growing up with a special needs brother. There’s humor that doesn’t make you feel like you’re laughing at JJ’s disability, but you’re laughing with him as he continues to figure out life. If there is a scene played for laughs at his expense, it is merely due to normal, hilarious teenage boy stupidity. Not only is it enjoyable to watch JJ navigate through the day with his witty aid Kenneth alongside, always ready to read off of JJ’s communication board or crack a joke every now and then, but it opens the eyes of a greater audience to the ins-and-outs of living with a disability and the family dynamic that comes with it. Since JJ’s case of cerebral palsy is more pronounced than mine (his character is nonverbal, and has extremely limited use of his limbs), I can’t say that I completely relate to him, but I do know how hard it is to zip up a jacket, have my wheelchair not fit through a doorway, attend a mainstream school, go to summer camp away from my parents for the first time, and explore living at college by myself. Even though most of those things are difficult for even the able-bodied, the stress and pressure of accomplishing those tasks with special needs is magnified by about 1000%. Okay, maybe not 1000, but you know what I mean. Life is hard. On the other side of the coin though, the DiMeo family understands and advocates for JJ because they love him, and even at times where his siblings, Ray (brother) and Dylan (sister), might feel like they’re neglected, they won’t hesitate to stand up for him at a moment’s notice. I am positively sure  that my brothers would do the exact same, as they have for 17 years. Furthermore, Speechless is the only show that I can recall to have an actually disabled actor (Micah Fowler) in the lead role. Sure, plenty of TV series feature a character with autism, down syndrome, or CP,  (Glee, Parenthood, etc.) and some actors really do have special needs, but never has that actor/actress played the starring role in their work. Needless to say, Speechless is a truly groundbreaking series and I hope it continues doing well, now that it has joined the Friday night primetime slot, which has featured classic shows like Full House, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Family Matters. ABC, whatever you do, let Speechless do its thing. Killing it would be doing a disservice to the American public and the special needs community alike. Trust me, you don’t want to mess with us!

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