What "Speechless" really tells us......................
This trailer for the new ABC pilot "Speechless" hits home for so many parents in the autism community. This upcoming show is about a family with a severely disabled, nonverbal child.
The mom reminds me of so many tireless mothers who will do everything to get what their children need in life.
It stars Micah Fowler, a teen with cerebral palsy in real life.
On March 24, 2016, Variety covered the show in “Young Special Needs Actor Cast in Minnie Driver’s ABC Comedy Pilot ‘Speechless’.
Fowler — who has cerebral palsy in real life — will portray JJ, the family’s eldest child, who is nonverbal.
When I was growing up, I never heard about anyone who was “nonverbal.” When I was in college studying to be a teacher, I was never told about potential students who might be “nonverbal.”
When I was first out in school systems in Wisconsin and Illinois (and in England), I still didn’t come across students who couldn’t communicate normally. Of course, that was thirty years ago.
My how times have changed!
Today, I spend time in different schools in my little town of 14,000. I have students who are officially “nonverbal.” We accept this as a condition of childhood today. (Of course, no one asks where the “nonverbal” adults are.)
Three years ago, I wrote this story about how we have all become used to hearing about children who are “nonverbal.”
Experts tell us 25 percent of ASD children are officially “nonverbal.” That doesn’t bother health officials who also tell us that one in every 45 children in America has autism. That means of course that there are a lot of kids who can’t talk. (My son didn’t speak normally until he was almost four. I had him in speech therapy when he was two because he didn’t talk.)
In the end, I’m happy about a show that makes a star of a young man with a severe disability. I can only imagine how wonderful it is for Micah Fowler and his family to have him doing this. Maybe this show will educate people about what parents of special needs kids struggle with everyday.
There is another part of me that worries about a show that presents a really disabled, non-speaking individual as a normal and acceptable part of childhood. I’ve heard hundreds of accounts over the years of kids who were perfectly healthy, happy, thriving little toddlers, and who inexplicably lost learned skills—including SPEECH, and ended up with the labels of autistic and “nonverbal.”
My son is 29 now. He speaks very well (probably thanks to all the endless hours of speech therapy my husband’s insurance paid for back when he was little), but he doesn’t have a job, and I can’t imagine him living independently.
My biggest fear is that as more and more of our children age into adulthood, their disability will be accepted as a part of the human condition, and we won’t remember a world without people who can’t speak, can’t learn, and can’t function normally. People with deviant behaviors will be recognized and anyone who points out that it hasn’t always been this way will be slammed as insensitive.
Acceptance of this disabled population may sound like a good thing, but in truth it merely means that we don’t have to do anything about the growing number of sick and disabled children and young adults everywhere. We just have to get used to all ages being like this. This is the new America.