Speechless

Speechless/ABC/2016+ (Cerebral Palsy)

J.J. Dimeo (Micah Fowler), disabled 16-year-old teenager with Cerebral Palsy who is confined to a motorized wheelchair. He lives in Newport Beach, California with his mother Maya (Minni Driver), father Jimmy (John Ross Bowie), sister Dylan (Kyla Kennedy), who runs track, and brother Ray (Mason Cook) who likes astronomy.

speechless

Unable to use his vocal cords, J.J. communicates with an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device that uses a red laser beam pointer attached to his head that allows him to target a list of letters and words and spell out what he wants to say. He can move his arms, but his fingers are bit stiff. If he gets disgusted with someone and wants to give them the “finger,” he gives them his whole hand instead.

Assisting J.J. is Jennifer (Dina Spybey-Waters), an overly enthusiastic female caregiver who helps voice his concerns. She works for the New Generation Center (“Building opportunity for California’s Youth with Disabilities”). Her high pitched voice sounds like a fairy godmother and J.J. requested that she change a number of students into pumpkins. He even wanted her to say, “Bippity, Boppity, Boo,” but she declined. She was replaced by Kenneth (Cedric Yarbrough), the school’s black groundskeeper whom J.J. liked better.

speechless-van

As for J.J.’s mother Maya Dimeo, she is extremely protective and fights and fights to make sure J.J. has a normal life. She refuses to let people refer to him as “crippled.” Maya can be so confrontational the even the local police won’t give her a ticket when she speeds by in her car.

When J.J. arrives at his new school (Lafayette High School) there was no handicapped ramp, except a service ramp at the back of the school used for deliveries. Angry, Maya DiMeo immediately gets up a petition for a handicapped accessible ramp to be built in front of the school.

Before Maya arrived at the school, the staff at Lafayette had a meeting on how to handle her, because word was out that Maya had already ruffled the feathers at other schools, including Lincoln, Woodbridge, Alma Dena, Whitman, Marshall, and Fountain Valley.

Eventually, J.J. settles into his new school and runs for Student Council President. When he first arrived at school, however, his classmates greeted him with a sign that read, “J.J. for President.” But J.J. felt they were patronizing him, so he responded, “Eat … A …Bag …of … (well, you get the point)!”


Note: Micah Fowler who plays the role of J.J. DiMeo has Cerebral Palsy in real life. The series was created by Scott Silveri (Friends), who comes from a family with a special-needs child (and who employs writers who have experience in similar situations).

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