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"Speechless" TV Tackles Raising a "Different" Kid

Speechless tvBy Anne Dachel

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.


Sarah L

Having worked with individuals with mental and/ or physical disabilities, I think this show is a great idea. This may help some people not be so afraid of individuals with disabilities. If people are exposed to this more often then it takes the away unknown and unfarmiliar, which tends to make people uncomfortable. People complain that individuals with disabilities are never cast in tv programs or movies, but now here is an individual being given a great opportunity and people want to complain that the character is not being portrayed how they see fit? Give me a break.

Tim Lundeen

I hadn't looked into cerebral palsey before. It has all the signs of being another environmental/iatrogenic disease, very likely being swept by the CDC under the same rug as autism/other-brain-damage-and-seizures/severe-food-allergies/autoimmune-illness.

One strong signal is that CP is highly co-morbid with epilepsy (41%) and autism (6.9%). Since autism and epilepsy are clearly environmental/iatrogenic, these must be a strong driver of CP as well.

The CDC monitoring is characteristically incompetent. The most recent prevalence study was from 2002 (2004? unclear). But the rates of autism and regressive autism increased exponentially since then, and it would be very plausible to see the same increase in CP. The CDC says that rates are higher among low-birth-weight children, who are of course the most sensitive to environmental toxins especially vaccination, and at some point hospitals started to vaccinate premature and low-birth-weight infants “on schedule” relative to birth, rather than to age-since-conception or weight… Conveniently, most CP cases are diagnosed at birth (or perhaps after the at-birth HepB), but there are cases of “regression", where kids are normal for some period and then develop CP.

CP can develop following physical trauma, but unclear what percentage of cases this is; again we don’t have current data. My guess is that this claim is mostly bogus, that most post-birth-onset is due to vaccination and other environmental triggers.


On headline news this morning with Robin Mead they had a family do a "shout out to the troops". Mom and 2 kids all recorded messages for their husband/dad. The youngest daughter had a written message for her dad because she is non verbal. Just another non verbal kid out there.


I want to see the episode where Minnie Driver is confronting the medical establishment to get her son appropriate care the way she's confronting the school system to get him an education in the trailer. Let me know when the episode where she gets her son exempted from vaccines airs.


Our society may normalize autism on a social level, but what about financial? I often wonder how our society is going to bear the financial burden when the children of this generation become adults. Families are spending money on their treatments and have little to save for the future. We can see the fluffy stories about adults with autism getting jobs. - But realistically how many of them are going to make enough money to support themselves?


"Speechless" TV Tackles Raising a "Different" Kid


These people aren't tackling anything.... they're just trying to normalize it, so the public will eventually accept it as just part of the normal landscape.

Well there's nothing normal about children who suddenly LOSE their ability to talk.

And the only people 'tackling' this issue, are the parents of the children who have been left in this state by vaccines.

Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

Lawrence, In 1968 my son was admitted to the children's ward at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center. There were 6 boys and 2 girls with autism. The rest were children with other neurological disorders; most had seizure disorders, and all had language. None of the autistic children had seizures, but all were low-verbal or echolalic.

Margaret, I started my research by reading everything I could find on language disorders. Study of aphasia has a long history. The only paper I could find on echolalic speech was by Barr in 1898, and I posted this on my my website at:

cia parker

That would be a lot of kids. Where were these mental institutions and who paid for them? There is now one child in forty in the US diagnosed with autism. In 1987, there were three children in every 10,000 with autism. One-quarter of the autistic children is non-verbal, a figure confirmed by our speech therapist Lara Wakefield. That would be one out of every 160 American children now is non-verbal, and, according to you pro-vaxxers, that figure has always been the same. Could you come up with data to confirm that that huge number of American children used to be put into institutions, the huge amount of money necessary for their care paid by unknown sources? What do you think those sources were? Why are they no longer available? What was the turning point when parents stopped for whatever reason institutionalizing them and putting them in schools completely unable to cope? When I was a child, there were thirty kids per class, and all of them could read, write, speak, reason, and socialize, and all of them could sit quietly in their seats all day, without a single para or aide in any of the classes. Why does every classroom now have at least one para or aide present?


In the preview clip, it shows the mother deliberately speeding and the police deciding to leave her alone. Apparently this is how she normally drives. That's ok? That's funny?

Tim Lundeen

This is about a neurotypical boy with physical disabilities -- very different from severely autistic children whose brains are too inflamed for them to have normal speech. Unfortunately "speechless" describes them both. I like Minnie Driver, but this is not funny.


Nice try, Lawrence.

When I was a kid, there were no kids in my school who couldn't talk. I didn't know any kids who were kept at home who couldn't talk. We just didn't have that many sick kids. I didn't know of any institutionalized kids in the many families I knew. Yes, there were institutionalized children, but not nearly as many as you are suggesting.

Today, I know many kids who can't talk, including a close neighbor's child.


Hmm, when I do research on stroke and traumatic brain injury, I'm always in familiar territory. I don't think that's a coincidence. Funny that I don't see the "experts" note the similarities. I doubt that I'll be watching this show. Real disability, in any form, is simply not funny.


In the past, non-verbals didn't go to school.

They were either kept at home or sent to mental institutions.


In the past, non-verbals didn't go to school.

They were either kept at home or sent to mental institutions.

Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

My son is now 53. He learned to speak just before his 6th birthday, when he was a patient on the children's unit (Ward 6) at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center. There were a few other autistic children on the ward. At least one other of these children remains "low" verbal I have lost track of the others.

For the past 13+ years my son has lived in a group home for schizophrenic and/or depressed men. He keeps running away. He is being bullied and scapegoated, and I don't know if by another resident or staff. My son often speaks in a loud commanding tone of voice. No one seems to understand that this is "echolalia." Do present-day autism researchers even know what echolalia is???

I am sitting in the emergency room with him right now at Good Samaritan Hospital in Brockton MA. What a beautiful hospital! He was brought here last night, and thankfully not discharged in response to questions whether he might want to injure himself or others. I am waiting for someone from his group home to arrive, to try to figure out what next...

This is nothing to be graciously accepted, not by me, not by autism "experts," and not by the rest of society.


What's next on the entertainment menu? Will there be a comedy show about raising a child with microcephaly titled "Small"?

No, probably not. Since there will be a Zika vaccine, we will be conditioned to fear microcephaly and the harmless virus that they are pinning it on. No, the new show will be to condition us to laugh about the damage done to the human race by the Zika vaccine. Microcephaly will be the new black plague for the purpose of marketing the new voodoo vaccine for - say in a scary raspy voice with your eyes open wide and your hands up and fingers flitting -
Z eee k aaaa. Woooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!

Non Verbal Mom

I should add. My son made tremendous progress in his articulation and oral motor exercises. His attention and focus and cognitive tasks when he was getting monthly IVIG IV treatments under doctor Bradstreet's care. Treatments were stopped when insurance would no longer cover them. Glimmer of hope in acquisition of speech when we were treating his immune system.
Maybe someone could study that.


Turning an undeclared worsening epidemic of mute, damaged and crippled children into a comedy show while the CDC's PR propaganda declares that their more than 14,000 employees are on the job tracking disease and keeping us safe "24/7". Sickening.

Non verbal Mom

20 year old non verbal son here. Years and years of speech therapy (some years getting 3 one hour sessions a week) also paid for through my husband's insurance. Years and years of ABA particularly Sundberg and Partington's verbal behavior approach to illicit speech through signing.

You got lucky Anne your son speaks. I guess if I was in your shoes I would credit the speech therapy too. My son could have speech therapy until the day he dies. He'll never "speak" because I believe the brain damage from his infant vaccines damaged his ability to do so. When he does say the few single words he can his articulation is so poor. It's like he is a stroke victim. Of course, that is just speculation on my part since we know next to nothing about why some kids speak and some SIMPLY CAN NOT. Because no one has every researched why. Just another "autism mystery".

Non verbal sucks and it is really a tough existence and really heartbreaking.

bob moffit

Watched the 3 minute trailer of this "New ABC funny show" .. and .. I didn't find anything "funny" about it .. but .. that's probably just me .. who has a 16 year old "non-verbal" grandson with far less ability to express himself than the .. what I believe to be .. precocious autistic teenager in the show.

Nice kid .. I truly wish him well ..but .. I think I'll pass on the show.

John Stone

We just had something nauseously called the "The A Word" on BBC TV (consultant Simon Baron-Cohen). Normalisation.

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