Speechless, ABC’s new Wednesday night comedy, has parents of special-needs kids cheering, saying that it tells their story. The show, which stars Minnie Driver as a relentless advocate for her nonverbal teenage son with cerebral palsy, manages to paint a realistic yet funny portrait of the lengths parents will go to for their children, and how families — siblings especially — are affected.
The first episode featured Maya DiMeo, Driver’s character, moving the family to the least expensive house (read: dump) in the best neighborhood in order to get services her son JJ needed — namely an aide who will give voice to his words, which he points to via a laser on his Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device. JJ is played by with great mischievous gusto by Micah Fowler, a verbal 16-year-old with cerebral palsy who is one of a very few disabled actors on TV. It’s a difficult balancing act for Maya when she realizes that Ray, her other son, is unhappy about yet another time he’s being uprooted for his brother’s potential benefit.
At one point, when Maya is informed that her reputation as a loud, “pushy” special-needs mom precedes her — her battle cry for accessibility ramps can be heard in the next county — she rattles off several schools she’s been involved with that might have spread the word. In real life, such a search can be exhausting and defeating. The show manages to get the message across without being sad or preachy.
The reaction on Speechless’s Facebook page was an enthusiastic thumb’s up. As one mom wrote, “Absolutely the best portrayal of a disabled person and their family that was ever on TV. We laughed because it was so true. We live it every day.”
Here’s where you can catch up with the first episode of Speechless.