Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Winning the War

If you didn't already know ABC has a show about a young man with Cerebral Palsy and his family. The show is called Speechless. “Maya DiMeo (Minnie Driver) is a mom on a mission who will do anything for her husband Jimmy, her kids Ray, Dylan, and JJ, her eldest son with cerebral palsy. As Maya fights injustices both real and imagined, the family works to make a new home for themselves, and searches for just the right person to give JJ his "voice” (ABC.com).

I've watched since the pilot intrigued by how ABC would portray a family like mine.

What I didn't like about the show:

- Jimmy, the father is portrayed as useless. Here's the thing. My dad does not need my mom to tell him what to do. I know my mom needed my dad to fix many pieces of equipment over the years. While we needed him for many things, he never seemed to look to Mom to know how to be a dad.  he is a strong man and would do anything for me with or without my mother. 

- JJ doesn't use text to speech technology. JJ does not use a computer generated voice; instead, he uses a light and an extremely low tech alphabet board. While I understand that this may be convenient for sitcom purposes, nobody I know would prefer people talking for them over having their own voice. In the latest episode, JJ has a device that does talk for him but in the end, he chooses to go back to his low tech board. It made me upset.

- JJ isn't fiercely independent. Okay, I have a fierce desire to be independent. People who are able-bodied or not want different levels of independence and I do respect and understand that. However, JJ never asks his assistant to leave if his friends are around. If I don’t need help, I don’t want someone around.

- Devices magically appear. If JJ wants or needs something, it magically appears. Life with a disability doesn’t work like that. If we want a new communication device, it takes about a year with insurance. I understand the show wants to educate people and I respect and applaud that but I’m saying people with disabilities have to have a lot of patience when it comes to getting the right equipment.

Things I like about the show:

- It does show JJ in physical therapy. This is real life. Therapy takes you away from homework, after school activities, time with family, time with friends, time to yourself, and anything I enjoy so it was nice to see the show include that. To me, physical therapy is like hitting the pause button on my vibrant life and focusing on Cerebral Palsy.

 - The siblings have their own story lines. This was crucial to me. JJ should not be the center focus of the family and the show did not do that…thank God! The two younger siblings have their own lives and that is how it should be. My siblings all are doing their own thing and we are who we are.
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 JJ making friends is so wonderful to see. It wasn’t necessarily my reality in high school but for that to be an example on an ABC sitcom is incredible! I love that JJ is one of the guys.

- The mom. The mom on the show is my mother on steroids. She is fierce, relentless, and JJ’s number one fan. My mom is all of those things but with grace and poise.

Overall, the show does an excellent job of portraying life when you have a family member with a disability. The humor is great, the characters are dynamic, and I cherish seeing someone like me on screen. I don’t think the show will have a second season on ABC. I don’t think the storyline is that captivating. My prediction and hope is that Netflix picks this up.  I know a lot of people who didn’t like how Speechless portrayed other things such as special education. I welcome your comments down below. Please be respectful!

The Thompson family is headed to DC next month to advocate for dystonia. We’re pumped to go. I’m excited to see my friends from last year and hopefully, see new people, and to educate elected officials on the condition. With all the awareness from Speechless to getting to go to D.C., I can’t help but have hope for people with disabilities. It’s a long, uphill battle but we are winning the war.

Till next time,
Hannah!

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