This week there was not a new episode of Speechless. However, they did show a rerun of Episode 6 called D-A-T-E-DATE? The challenges of dating as an individual with a disability was featured. However, I think the challenge that stood out the most in this this episode of Speechless was the stress of the family and how they cope, whether it be healthy or unhealthy.
First I want to talk about dating as a disabled adult. Dating is a challenge for many people, but in the society we live in, where physical appearance is held in high regard, for disabled individuals it is even harder. My experience is very similar to JJ’s on Speechless, women see me as a friend or as he stated, as a “teddy bear”. This challenge was also addressed in a very humorous light in Zach Anner’s book, If At Birth You Don’t Succeed.” Zach Anner did not have a girlfriend until he was 30. There is no shortage of women who will insincerely flirt with me, sit on my lap and joke about being my girlfriend, but there is definitely a shortage of the sincere women who truly are interested in getting to know me beyond friendship and beyond my wheelchair. Rarely do I ever “blame” my disability for the shortcomings in my life, I have to say that if I was not disabled I would have a very different love life. I am a kind, intelligent, and humorous kind of guy. Some may say I am handsome and a real catch. I think my wheelchair does prevent women from seeing those characteristics. Disabilities of my nature can also be isolating. My schedule is dictated by my caregiving schedule and I don’t drive. Going on a date with a caregiver can be a bit awkward to say the least! So I can definitely empathize with JJ from Speechless. Of course, there are things I can do to overcome some of these challenges. I am quite shy and a bit of a homebody. So there are things I personally need to work on to improve this area of my life.
I think the majority of this episode of Speechless highlighted the stresses of the family. Dylan, who is usually the upbeat “easy” kid, had a meltdown, actually several meltdowns. It was clear that stress was getting to her. In one scene she told her dad she was tired of the way people treated her family. Her dad showed her his way of dealing with stress at the airport where he was employed. They laid on the ground and as the airplanes flew over, they screamed bloody murder as the engine drowned out the noise. In this episode of Speechless, Maya had a different way of dealing with her stress. Once a month she meets with a group of special need’s moms come over for “support”. By support, I mean lots of sangria! This may not be the healthiest way to deal with stress, and I certainly don’t recommend becoming a drunk, but sometimes letting loose can be a great stress reliever.
Finding ways to relief stress is so important for all members of a special needs family. Recently, I wrote a blog post about the added stress a disability in the family can have on the siblings. The stress of my disability and my brother’s disability has affected all the members of my family. I know my brother relieves his stress with singing, dancing and art. I relieve my stress with video games, summer camp, and chewing on my fingernails. My mom does not relieve her stress enough which usually means she will lose it and then reset! Recently, my mom has started listening to audiobooks and I think that helps, or it could be the wine she drinks as she listens! In the warmer times of the year she rides her motorcycle to help decompress. My dad relieves his stress with fishing and hunting. He is also a very social guy and that helps too. So much like the DiMeo family on Speechless, my family has found ways to deal with the extra stress.
Speechless did a great job focusing on the effects of stress on a family with a child with a disability. However, they did miss one person in this family, JJ. The family member with the disability also feels the stress, sometimes even more than the others. As a disabled individual, it is hard not to feel guilty for the extra burden caused to my family. I tell my mom all the time “I am sorry about this”, when things go wrong as a result of my cerebral palsy. She always says “Never apologize”, but I always do. Guilt can be the greatest stress of all. Although the title of this Speechless episode would indicate that the focus would be on JJ dating, a date never really occurred. However, it did bring to light the challenges individuals with disabilities face in the dating world. The fact that JJ is non-verbal as well as physically disabled makes the challenge even greater.
Overall, another great Episode of Speechless. You can catch Speechless on ABC on Wednesday nights at 8:30/7:30c. You catch up on all the episodes anytime on Hulu.
Until next time, Keep Rollin’ and Keep Smilin’
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