addy and uno cast. Uno, Addy, Seemore, Melody and RJ

A new family musical, “Addy and Uno,” will feature a cast of characters with disabilities. With concept and book by Nava Silton, PhD., a developmental psychologist, and music and lyrics by Bonnie Gleicher, the project is helmed by two women who want those with disabilities to see themselves on the stage. Emmy-nominated Donna Drake will direct.

Addy and Uno promo poster

“Addy and Uno” will star five young characters with disabilities: Addy, who has ADHD; Uno, who’s on the autism spectrum; Melody who has a visual impairment; Seemore, who’s hard of hearing and communicates with sign language; and RJ, who uses a wheelchair.

The actors do not have disabilities, and it’s important to note this because while disabled people make up one-fifth of the U.S. population, disabled actors are rarely given opportunities. For the next production, Silton and Gleicher are interested in hiring actors with disabilities who match the characters they play.

"Addy and Uno" cast with their puppets

Gleicher said she and Silton consulted people with disabilities when creating the show.

It was very important to us to represent the disabilities as accurately, as possible. We consulted with an ASL (American Sign Language) expert regarding Seemore, our character who presents with a hearing impairment. We had an adult male with a significant visual disability consult with us about Melody, our character who presents with low vision [for] our comic books, and we tried to utilize some of that information to best inform our portrayal of Melody in the musical, as well. We consulted with a variety of adults with autism spectrum disorders and also consulted with parents of children on the autism spectrum. Finally, we had a variety of college students with ADHD help inform our portrayal of Addy, our character presenting with ADHD.

The play addresses themes of bullying, friendship and kindness. “I hope viewers will be empowered to be kind, empathic, loving and interested in their peers, whatever their color, interest or ability,” said Silton, who hopes to foster understanding and communication between disabled children and their peers.

Silton, whose nephew is on the autism spectrum, began working at Nickelodeon and Columbia University on Social Emotional Learning after graduating college. Later, she began a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at Fordham University with a practicum at Sesame Street Workshop.

When Silton asked her sister, who she lived with, about the challenges that can come with autism, she told her: “The hardest thing for me is when kids come into our home and flock to my other kids and pretend that Elie, my son on the spectrum, is part of the wallpaper. I wish they would take the time to see all of the wonderful and special things about Elie.” Silton then ran a survey at the Sesame Street Workshop, which revealed 93 percent of parents of children with disabilities reported they’d rather see a show that would teach able-bodied children how to better understand and appreciate their disabled peers, rather than a show that would teach direct social emotional skills.

Silton forged ahead, developing a pilot TV episode of a show called “Realabilities” and creating 10 comic books featuring the same characters of “Addy and Uno.” The comics also feature characters with Down syndrome, Williams syndrome, Tourette’s syndrome, stuttering and dyslexia. Silton collaborated with her students at Marymount Manhattan College to write two instructional manuals for teachers.

Addy and Uno comic books

“I want viewers who read the ‘Realabilities’ comic book series or who view the ‘Addy and Uno’ musical to celebrate friendship, the beauty of difference and to take more time to get to know and appreciate their peers of all abilities,” Silton told The Mighty. “I want to open up their vistas and to challenge them to be investigators and to find each individual’s special strengths.”

Children with disabilities are two to three times more likely to face bullying than their non-disabled peers. “I hope that viewers who see the show or read the comic book series recognize how nice it feels to be nice, how kindness and empathy are the most powerful of tools and so much more powerful than bullying and putting others down,” Silton said.

“The hurt and the insecurities are a part of this musical, as well as the joys of friendship, passion and strength,” Gleicher added.

Silton says musical performance is a cognitively and artistically rich medium both children of all abilities can relate to.

“Their journey is perfect for a musical,” Gleicher added. “These characters face such challenges but have such humor and heart and resilience in the face of them. Music has this honest way of leaping into the life of a character and soaring and connecting with millions of people. Their story was meant to be sung.”

Gleicher said her favorite part of producing the play has been watching adults laugh and cry in the audience and seeing kids walk out of the theater singing the songs and repeating the sign language they learned from the characters. “It’s a universal show kids and adults enjoy,” she said, “which is rare and incredible to witness.”

addy and uno totebags

“I hope individuals living with disabilities will see themselves showcased positively on the show canvas,” Silton said, “and will be able to use the play and comic book series as a springboard to better educate their neurotypical or typical peers about the beauty of difference.”

“Addy and Uno” will run from August 28-September 24 at The Theatre at 14th Street Y. The play is 50 minutes long and steps are being taken to ensure it is sensory-friendly. You can purchase tickets on the Addy and Uno website.

Header credit: Realabilities Facebook page


Dreamers Coffee Merchant Shop creates jobs and opportunities for people with disabilities.

Read the full transcript:

This Coffee Shop Has a Dream for People With Disabilities, and It’s Working.

Dreamers Merchants Coffee Company began with Founder Diane Grover.

She discovered the hiring rate for people with disabilities was only 20%.

Her daughter has Down syndrome, in preparing for her future, Grover wanted to find a way to increase that hiring rate.

The first branch was opened in 2015 in Cordovo, Tennessee.

Now there are over 30 branches of Dreamers in the United States.

Dreamers encourages people to open their own store by filling out an application on their site.

Dreamers hires individuals with a disability to work alongside those without a disability to create an inclusive environment.

“One of the most compelling things that we have seen in this launch is watching people be empowered, taking control of their futures and know that they have an opportunity to run their own business.” – Diane Grover

To learn more, visit

Respite is frequently one of the first services offered to families once their baby is diagnosed with one or more disabling conditions. Sometimes parents don’t want that service. They might have close family nearby who can give them a break now and then, and feel they don’t need the respite. I know, because over 24 years ago when my daughter was diagnosed with Aicardi syndrome and began receiving services through our state’s division of developmental disabilities, I didn’t want respite. The thought of leaving my fragile baby in the care of a stranger was frightening.  At the urging of the program social worker, and after speaking to some parents who were using the respite program, we decided to give it a try. I am glad we did, and in retrospect I can see how important it was for our family, for our daughter, and for me.  Here are four ways you can benefit from respite.

1. Reconnect with your spouse.

Although it may seem that only a few hours a month is not enough time to do anything, it is enough time to reconnect with your spouse.  A “date” with your partner doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, nor does it have to be in the evening.  It can be going for coffee in the afternoon, out for a drive, or to the library together.  The point is to be together without any interruptions. Even if you spend the whole time talking about your child, it’s good to be able to express your feelings and discuss your ideas for dealing with things together. Of course, you may want to talk about other things, reminisce or just listen to music. Whatever helps you feel like a couple again. After all, you may have some trying times ahead and if you already feel connected it might make them a little easier to get through.

2. Give your other children some one-on-one attention.

If you have other children, it is good to give them a little time to be with you where they feel they have your undivided attention. Sometimes when one child has many needs their sibling can feel forgotten and unimportant. Siblings need to know they are important and can express to you any feelings they might have about how your family functions, but might not feel comfortable doing so in front of their sibling.  It doesn’t have to be anything lavish, or a “let’s sit and talk” kind of thing. The point is to simply give them your full attention for a little while; just coloring together, or riding bikes, going for ice cream or taking a walk are good ways to let them know they are important to you and give them time to open up about their feelings.

3.  Remember who you are.

Besides being a parent, it’s easy to get lost in all the new roles your child’s diagnosis brings you: nurse, therapist, advocate, and teacher may be some of them. After a while you might forget who you are underneath all of that.  You also might get burned out, which might lead to depression, and a feeling of impending doom. When you are switching between one role and another, day and night without a break, it can be overwhelming. Respite can give you time to do something you enjoy such as read a book, meet a friend for coffee, go to the gym, or take a nap.  If you feel the need, it can give you time to see a counselor to learn techniques to deal with thoughts or emotions you may have; sometimes talking to someone with no emotional investment in your situation can be beneficial. Respite hours can give you a chance to engage in an activity you liked doing before your world changed. It can be a tool for self- preservation and personal growth. Recharging your energy is an important part of meeting the daily challenges caring for your child may bring.

4. Your child’s independence.

As hard as it can be to imagine, especially in the beginning, your child needs to be independent of you; it’s an important lesson for both of you to learn.  Perhaps it will never be possible to have complete independence, but even for short periods of time, you and your child need to know that someone else can meet their needs and keep them safe. Whether your respite person is a family member, a nurse, or a health aide from an agency, it’s important for your child to know they will be safe and cared for when you have to be away from them, and that you will come back. It’s also important for you to have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that if you must be away for a little while, your child will be comfortable in someone else’s care. It takes away some of the stress you might feel being separated from your child.

Starting respite early in this different kind of life also lays the foundation for schooling.  If you choose to send your child to school rather than homes chool, you both need to be used to being apart for a few hours with someone else giving your child care. If you home school, they’ll still have therapies and other activities where you may not always be present. Giving your child the chance to meet people on their own terms can help you both grow and thrive. We all need to have contact with various types of people in life, and using respite programs can be a safe way to help children experience that.

In the beginning, it can be difficult to imagine giving your child’s care over to someone else for any period of time for any reason. Using respite services can be a part of giving good care to them. By giving you a break, respite can help you find perspective about your situation and see the good things, rather than focusing on the practical ones. Caring for yourself and other family members can reduce everyone’s stress level and make it easier to deal with the frustrations and challenges that are part of family life with a child who needs extra care, and it can help you find the joy your child brings.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by Katarzyna Bialasiewicz.

A young film student explores disability and mobility devices in his new short documentary, “Assisted Mobility.” Taylor Lewis was born with a rare genetic condition that causes his muscles to be three times more dense than usual. This limits his flexibility and leads to fatigue and chronic pain. Lewis tried traditional mobility devices such as wheelchairs and scooters, but nothing really worked for him. Until he had the chance to try the M1 Electric Skateboard.

Since 2010, the Americans With Disabilities Act has covered the use of alternative power-driven mobility devices, so long as they are used responsibly and do not interfere with essential safety requirements. Many individuals with limited stamina or who cannot sit for long periods of time now use Segways and similar devices instead of a wheelchair or scooter. Lewis’ film explores how using an electric longboard affects not just his mobility, but how people perceive him.

Watch the full documentary below.

Representation, whether it’s in the media or in advertising, is important. Adding to its existing displays of inclusive advertising, Nordstrom featured models with disabilities for its recent Anniversary Sale Catalog.

Nordstrom has included models with disabilities in its catalogs since 1997. “We’ve had a long history of incorporating diverse models into our catalogs, including those with disabilities,” Nordstrom vice president and chief marketing officer Scott Meden said in a statement. “We do our best to reflect the diverse communities we serve.”

nordstrom ad featuring model with disability

Nordstrom’s latest catalog features Shaholly Ayers, a model with a limb difference, who is shown in the ad wearing her prosthesis. Ayers has also been included in previous Nordstrom catalogs, alongside other models with disabilities.

Ayers told People, “I like that I’m wearing the prosthesis because you can tell they are being inclusive. It’s a little more obvious.”

When she first started ten years ago,  Ayers said, modeling agencies rejected her due to her disability. Independently, however, she built up a strong portfolio and reputation through networking and determination.

Now, Ayers is a brand ambassador for Global Disability Inclusion and has walked the runways of New York Fashion Week and Milan Fashion Week.

nordstrom ad featuring model with disability

Ayers said she hopes more companies embrace inclusive advertising, and she’s not the only one. Twitter users have also shared their appreciation, thanking Nordstrom for using inclusive advertising.

“It’s about showing, visually, that a person with a disability, a person who is an amputee, is still capable,” Ayers said in a statement. “I still should be considered beautiful despite my missing limb. That shouldn’t be a reason why I can’t model.”

As parents of kids with disabilities, we want our children to be treated with dignity and respect. But what if we as parents don’t model that? I’m going to say something that I suspect will make a lot of people uncomfortable: sometimes we are the ones who treat our children in undignified ways. When I first realized I was guilty of this, it broke me.

Looking back at my own blog entries from years past, I can’t help but notice the language I used and the over-sharing of personal details about my children. It turns out that even as a parent, I need to look at my own disability attitudes. If I don’t give my children dignity and respect, how can I expect others to do that too? If I am to be a role model, what am I communicating about my children? I need to be ever mindful of how my unconscious biases and attitudes impact my children and their community.

In the last few years I’ve been learning about disability attitudes. Because I’m a parent of kids with disabilities, and because I’m aware of other people’s negative attitudes towards disability, I somehow thought I had no problems with my personal disability attitudes. Things changed for me when I got to know adults with disabilities and I began listening to what they had to say. I was not an expert on disability because of my kids, they were the experts because they were the ones who were disabled. A lesson that, quite honestly, was humbling for me.

I’ve confused my girls’ story with my story. I’ve felt entitled to share information about them because of how it made me feel. I’ve disclosed some details that, if shared about me, would make me embarrassed and hurt. I did it all in the name of reaching other parents in similar situations and offering hope and encouragement. It turns out I can still do that without compromising my children’s dignity and respect as human beings.

I parent a child with an intellectual disability, and it is easy for me to fall into the harmful and misinformed mindset that, “She doesn’t understand.” I must always assume she does understand, even if she’s not able to demonstrate it. Because I am operating under this assumption, my words and actions must guard her dignity accordingly. I do understand. And because I do, I have a responsibility to be the one who upholds her basic human dignity before others.

What will I communicate to someone who does not live my life? What mental picture am I planting in their minds when they interact with my child or someone with a similar disability?

My child gains nothing from my over-sharing; instead, she loses. She loses someone looking at her as an equal, she loses her dignity, she loses respect in a world that already struggles to see her as valuable and human.

I understand that if I were to publicly share about bathroom struggles, period issues, meltdowns or bad moments, I would be stripping my daughter of the dignity and respect she deserves. Those things are not for me to share. If they would be humiliating for me or for a typical peer, then because I value her and think of her as someone who deserves dignity and respect, those things need to stay private. If I have a question about those issues, if I need support from other parents, there are private forums or groups to do so.

I didn’t always understand this.

I still get confused and share their stories as if they were mine because of how I feel. But, it is not about me, or other parents, it is about my children. Do I share with their dignity and respect in mind?

I still make mistakes and share more than I need to. I probably still will, but I am learning.

If I want my kids to be treated with dignity and respect, I have to start by being an example. An example in the way I write, in the way I speak, in the way I advocate.

I want my writing to reflect how precious my children are, how much I love them, how much they enrich my life.

I want the hope and encouragement to come from a place of dignity and respect for my kids while I acknowledge our struggles as parents. It is possible, and I believe that type of sharing is more powerful than giving personal details about meltdowns or a list of diagnoses.

I want, above all, to know that when my kids read my words or hear me speak, they’ll know they are safe, because I respect them and treasure their feelings and their dignity.

Always presume competence. As parents, we would do well to take that to heart.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by SJenner13.

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