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ABC disabled sitcom not so “Speechless” after all

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Teens in high school, the dating lives of young adults, and

Teens in high school, the dating lives of young adults, and "modern families" have set the sitcom mold for the past several years, but one comedy decided to break said mold by tackling a real issue: handicapped children. ABC's family comedy, "Speechless", tackles that subject.

Teens in high school, the dating lives of young adults, and "modern families" have set the sitcom mold for the past several years, but one comedy decided to break said mold by tackling a real issue: handicapped children. ABC's family comedy, "Speechless", tackles that subject.

Elana Marino

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Teens in high school, the dating lives of young adults, and “modern families” have set the sitcom mold for the past several years, but one comedy decided to break said mold by tackling a real issue: handicapped children.

According to M&L Special Needs Planning.com, more than 41 million Americans that are age 5 and older, have some type of physical or mental disability. The Census Bureau also found that approximately 6.2 percent of children, between the ages 5 to 15-years-old, have disabilities.

With only 2% of disabled characters being played by actual disabled actors on television as conveyed by vulture.com, ABC has decided to conquer real life issues with Speechless, a show revolving around a family and their handicapped son.

Speechless is a show that was long overdue for society, as there are families that are suffering with the same predicament of having a handicapped child, and it adds a new element to the average sitcom structure.

The show revolves around the DiMeo family, where the oldest son J.J. has cerebral palsy. J.J.’s actor Micah Fowler (Labor Day) also has the diagnosis, which contributes to the aforementioned 2 percent of disabled actors playing disabled parts. Like Jean Dujardin in The Artist, Micah has to rely heavily on his facial expressions and movement to deliver his performance, which has proven to be effective. J.J. is absolutely adorable with a huge heart.

The matriarch of this rag tag family is Maya, played by Academy Award nominee Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting). Instead of crumbling under pressure, she always has a smile on her face and an upbeat approach to every hurdle thrown, doing whatever necessary for J.J. to have the best of whatever he needs, which has included making numerous sacrifices.This has led to the family moving multiple times to what middle child Ray refers to as “the ugliest house in the nicest neighborhood”, all so J.J. can go to a better school. Maya’s husband Jimmy does not care what spectators and other parents say and follows Maya’s take charge spirit.

It seems like there are instances where the rest of the DiMeos are very unappreciative of all that she does, such as seen when tomboy youngest daughter Dylan tends to put aside family issues in order to excel in sports. With Maya’s quirkiness, the family does it’s best to follow her lead by making sure J.J. is treated like any other child, regardless of his limitations, and it’s obvious that this works for them.

Maya’s efforts are rather endearing and inspiring to other families that face these struggles. Another person that makes this transition a bit smoother is Kenneth, the groundskeeper at J.J.’s new school who becomes his aide throughout the day.

Speechless is a delightful dramedy that instills hope in households around the country, especially due to J.J.’s widespread acceptance and even newfound popularity at his new school. While the 2017 Primetime Emmy nominations have yet to be announced, Fowler and Driver definitely have a great shot in the race for the coveted award.

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ABC disabled sitcom not so “Speechless” after all