On my family home visit, I had the opportunity to meet the most wonderful, welcoming and positive couple and their two daughters: a bubbly five-year old and a
shy three-year old with Down syndrome. At one point during our conversation, the parents brought up the sitcom “Speechless” on ABC and asked if my fellow Speech-Language Pathology trainee or I had gotten the chance to watch it. Unfortunately, grad school really doesn’t allow for a whole lot of free time to check out new shows, so neither of us had watched the new pilot episode. But as an SLP student, I was definitely intrigued. Typically, when I tell people that I am studying to become a Speech-Language Pathologist, they tell me that they needed help with their r’s when they were younger, or that they had a sibling who needed help with their s’s. To most of the general population, our only role is to work in a school to help children with their speech sounds. However, our scope of practice goes far beyond just that, and includes diagnosis and treatment of swallowing disorders, cognitive-communication disorders and much more. When I discovered that this show would include a non-verbal teenage boy who uses an Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device, I was hooked.
I had the opportunity to work with students at Easter Seals Autism Therapeutic Day School and Research Center (now Easterseals Academy), with the majority of my caseload comprising young adults with autism who used AAC devices. I love the idea of seeing an individual using an AAC device on network television because it brings a huge opportunity to start dialogues with individuals who are uneducated about disability and communication. You can also read here about the perspective from a father who has a child with a disability. With positive reviews abounding from families with children with disabilities, it sounds like this show is truly a step in the right direction. My hope is that this trend continues, and that the current underrepresentation of individuals with disability in television becomes a thing of the past.