Representation in Speechless

Recently, I’ve been catching up on Speechless.  It’s a TV show about a somewhat dysfunctional family with a kid in a wheelchair, who is actually the oldest child in the family.

Not only is it super hilarious, but it actually means something.  Like me, J.J. DiMeo has cerebral palsy.  It’s not a stunt.  Micah Fowler, the actor who plays J.J., has Cerebral Palsy.  He is more limited than I am, but I’m not judging him.  He’s still a person.  A really cool and funny person.  J.J. is a lot like me in that he doesn’t want special treatment.  All he wants is to blend in and be accepted by his peers at school.

Maya DiMeo – Minnie Driver’s character and J.J.’s mom – is a lot like my mom.   Super overprotective and wanting to do anything for her child.  And, as in my relationship with my mother – any parent/child relationship for that matter – sometimes Maya and J.J. butt heads.  We don’t want our parents to do everything for us.  Of course we understand that we have limitations, but we have to push against those in order to see what we can do for ourselves.

One thing J.J. has that I don’t is a supportive family structure.  His mother and the rest of his family is there for him, no matter what.  My father isn’t really in the picture, and I don’t have any siblings, so it’s extra hard on my mom.

I really hope this show opens people’s minds about handicapped people.  So that they can see them as real people who are just like everyone else.  Yes, it’s hilarious, but it’s a lot more than that.  It’s nice to have representation in the media – I don’t see a lot of it.  Hopefully this show will change that.

One thing they should change is the show description:

Maya DiMeo is a mom on a mission who will do anything for her husband, Jimmy, and kids Ray, Dylan, and J.J., her eldest son with special needs.

I HATE the term “special needs”.  It’s so stuffy and politically correct.  It also bothers me because I don’t see myself that way.  I see myself as a person who is just like everyone else.

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