Special Needs Hit Primetime with 'Speechless'

by ih-chi admin

TV shows these days now cover everything from time travel to the transgender. So it’s no surprise that something finally came along addressing the sensitivities, albeit with a splash of humor, about the special needs community.

Cue up Speechless from ABC’s primetime lineup. 

The heart of the story is a character named JJ who has cerebral palsy and is non-verbal, i.e. speechless. In the show, he uses AAC (augmentative alternative communication) to communicate and gets around with a wheelchair. The actor playing JJ, Micah Fowler, also suffers from cerebral palsy himself in real life.

More than 764,000 children and adults in the U.S. are affected by one or more symptoms of cerebral palsy.

The show was created by producer Scott Silveri, of Friends fame, and inspired by his own family dynamics growing up with a special needs sibling. He hopes to have viewers look past the physical limitations of JJ, and get to know him just as they would any other kid on the cusp of his teen years trying to get through school and cope with the misadventures of family and friends.  

“Cerebral palsy can rob a child of their mobility, and even their voice, but it can’t take away their sense of humor,” said Dr. Karen Keough of Child Neurology Consultants of Austin. “This show can hopefully start raising awareness about special needs families. The daily struggles of parenting, and often the hilarious outcomes that arise, are the same across the board, no matter what your situation.”

Silveri aims to show that no one child or family should feel alone in their challenges, especially those who feel isolated due to special needs or disabilities.

Speechless airs Wednesday nights on ABC (KVUE-TV).