I've just yesterday finished watching ABC's Speechless. And to be honest, I already miss it. I discovered it because of Robyn Lambird, the youtuber girl I've mentioned in a previous post, and also Zach Anner, who we obviously need to talk about here as well.
So, Zach is one of the funniest youtubers I've come across, who also happens to have CP and features it in genious comedic ways. I won't give you spoilers. Check himself out, here's his channel, you're welcome.
Fun fact: Zach ended up making an appearence on the show as - putting it in Maya's words - future JJ.
Here's Zach's video on it:
Speaking from a personal point of view here, I must say I had never watched any series before where a charatcter on a wheelchair was portrayed, appart from Glee, I just remembered. And as for Glee, I must state here that I personally think Artie was really undevelopped and underrated.
What's different here though is mainly the way the series is constructed, I think. The way JJ's CP is always there, but at the same time it is such an usual situation, it almost becomes a background matter, unless some new (frequent) challenge comes up.
And, lets face it, the brilliant part of this, is how it actually ressonates with how our daily life goes, having CP. It's all very real to me. And so funny because it actually is so true.
Another thing I must point out too, though, is how I came to notice that by frequently watching JJ and his cerebral palsy padrons, spastic movements and facial expressions while finding him so funny and cute (he even plays that to his advantage), there started to grow, let's call it a self esteem boost imprinted in me.
By more and more observation through others, CP's typical traits are slowly making its way into things I consider make us unique and give us a hell of a character... and I also must admit learning to play cute to my advantage may come in very handy, so thanks JJ DiMeo!
Obviously the fact that that Micah Fowler who plays JJ actually has CP makes it even better, because he is part of the crew, he actually knows what it's like. And I must say he is a hell of an actor, being on a different part of the spectrum, less severe than JJ, and having altered his physicality in order to create the character. It's a really well played role and not an easy one, being so funny by using only facial expressions.
Maya, played by Minnie Driver, the "special needs" mom, is completely hilarious. And even though she is a bit extreme to say the least, there are a lot of truthful situations about her that make us identify with our own family life at some point, I suppose.
But it's not only about the inherent identification part. The differences about it also make it very interesting and quite reflecting inducive.
For example the dad, Jimmy (John Ross Bowie), and his consistent emotional denial adding up to a hoarding tendency contrast with Maya's over the top momhood.
Mason Cook, who plays Ray DiMeo, brings up important topics on all of this as well: the share of parents' attention, the concerns with JJ's future, all this topped with his constant anxiety and desperate romantic situation, frequently mocked by his sister Dylan (Kyla Kenedy) who is a compulsive winner and sarcastic gem.
Kenneth (Cedric Yarbrough) is the cherry on top. If the fact that he's an unexperienced jannitor who from night to day just starts being JJ's aid with no experience whatsoever doesn't make for a cracking plot already, let me tell you he is the perfect funny sidekick to, well, everyone in the family really.
Above all, it is an awesome comedy show, with or without the cerebral palsy theme being taken into account. But having it represented in such a natural non pitty-party way, I think will help us all destroying stereotypes. And unexpectedly, like I mentioned, not only change society but also maybe help some of us accept ourselves as the cute little actually not so limited bastards we are, and that is one of the best bonuses we could ask for!
There I was. A tiny bundle of energy, they say. Always wanting to check out each and everyone and everything that entered the room where I was, laying down in an incubator, with a headband and probably a pink pair of handmade booties knitted by my grandma.
It was all due to my rush of being born, it seems. Mom says she had made chocolate mousse that night, for dinner, when suddenly her waters broke. I wonder if it could have been my sweet tooth already manifesting. Either that or my anxiety was born with me.
The story goes like this: mom was 38 years old, already a risk pregnancy back in 1995, it was then or never. They definately didn't think I would be ready for peek-a-boo yet. Mom rushed to the hospital. Dad was teaching a good amount of miles away from home. Mom says she destroyed a pillow in pain, grinding it between her teeth. Next thing she knows is my head was already visible. On the 26th week of pregnancy. Our skin was so frail, you could see through the tips of our fingers, they say. My brother on the other hand, not being anxious at all (some things never change) had to be pulled out in what I can imagine must have looked and felt like a scene from The Shinning.
There are not that many details from back then. I guess the tendecy and the advice must have been to expect the worse. Heart and lungs were not fully formed. All you could see were basically tubes and monitors beeping. And four tiny hands, two pairs of shiny curious eyes determined to discover the world around them.
There are no pictures from our first week. And to be quite honest with you. even for me, the first ones that were took are too shocking even for me to publish. Mom could only hold us for the first time on the second day. Dad says he was afraid of breaking us in half for far too long. There were no diapers for our ridiculously tiny size. Not even the ones made for premature babies. Mom says they would just get a cotton ball on our bottoms and it would last. An also interesting detail: our bath tub was one of those school cafeteria inox bowls, everything else was too big (perhaps we could have been a good inspiration for a Tim Burton movie). There started even being jokes that we would fit in a match box. From what I know, we gave nightmares to many people, and I am sure many sleepless nights to our parents.
We spent a month in the hospital, with regular cardio-respiratory arrests. One of those caused cerebral palsy to me. It was far from being diagnosed yet though. The following years, I may add, were also in an out of many many hospitals, having an immune system made of paper. I became familar with oxygen masks before I could even say my first word (which was pretty damn early - by 9 months - and it was probably "no", which ironically I find hard to say now most of the times).
As soon as we were home from another stay at the hospital, we would get sick again, and if one of us were cured, it would spread to the other before we could breathe in relief.
Mom is a kindergaten educator. Back then she had worked at a physical rehab center for quite a while. Long enough to be able to tell when something of that matter was wrong. And the truth is I never seemed to be able to start crawling, or even holding my head up easily, also my limbs would not move well.
Doctors always said it was just slow development due to being premature, and that I eventually would grow out of it and develop fine. Considering I had almost no reflexes, though, sooner or later, they stopped telling my mother she was being paranoic about it, and gave me spastic diplegia, cerebral palsy, as a diagnose. Our world had crumbled. That tiny peanut who wasn't even supposed to make it, had recieved a letter of war, to fight for each literal step in her life for the rest of her days.
From what I can remember, though, I accepted it with no fuss, since I didn't even know what it was like to live without it anyways (from there to actually coming to terms with it goes a whole lot of difference, but true acceptation of a chronic "disability" is another big chapter, pretty much still unclosed, that I will write about soon).
Next thing I know is I already did physiotherapy. At about 6 months old. And I didn't stop for ages, though I must add I was lucky enough for it to affect only motor skills. But even though it is still hard to believe for many people who know me, I certainly was, for the first years of my existace, one of the kids you see drooling and not being able to control fine motor skills to even hold a pencil right (I will soon write about my most dangerous experience ever that completely changed my life in that sense, for the curious ones, it is called selective dorsal rhyzotomy, I did at the age of 6).
I don't remember much from that early start, obviously. But one thing I am sure: once upon a time that tiny bundle was born already stubborn enough to defy imposed limits. And here she remains.