By Ariana Estes

Summer is a perfect time to enjoy the outdoors, but when the temperatures get a little too hot or the day is a complete wash-out, it can also be a good time to catch up on a great television series. We love seeing the people we serve reflected in fictional characters on our favorite shows. Though dramatized, the circumstances the characters face often mirror real situations. These shows can offer insight into their experiences and help others to better understand their circumstances and help change attitudes. From disabilities to foster care, to adoption, here’s our list of binge-worthy shows to watch this summer:

Speechless (Disability)

Speechless is an ABC comedy that tells the story of the DiMeo family and the challenges they face, specifically with having a son with cerebral palsy. Only one season old, the show has picked up numerous nominations and awards and was even honored for its disability storyline by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Bonus: The show is helping to pave the way for actors with disabilities being cast in major roles by casting actor Micah Fowler, an actor with cerebral palsy, as J.J.
Best for: Family viewing with parental discretion
Find it on: Hulu,

The Tunnel (Autism Spectrum)

The Tunnel is a British-French crime drama series adapted from the series The Bridge. It follows the investigation of British Police Karl Roebuck and French Brigade Elise Wasserman when a body is discovered on the border of England and France. Elise Wasserman displays characteristics that suggest that she is on the autism spectrum. These traits add dynamic to her character throughout the series and contribute to the relationship between her and fellow investigator, Karl Roebuck. If you like crime drama, this is one to check out!
Best for: Adults only
Find it on: Amazon Prime

Switched at Birth (Disability/Adoption)

Two teenage girls, Daphne and Bay, discover that they were accidentally switched at birth in this Freeform drama. After growing up in very different environments, their lives are turned upside down as they get to know their birth families.  Daphne lost her hearing as a toddler after being sick with meningitis and primarily uses American Sign Language to communicate. There are several cameos by deaf actors and there is even an episode that is almost entirely played out in ALS with subtitles.
Best for:
Adults and teens with parental discretion
Find it on: Netflix

Parenthood (Asperger’s syndrome/Adoption)

An NBC drama that ran for 6 seasons, this show has it all. As the Braverman’s lives intertwine, storylines featuring adoption and Asperger’s syndrome show the struggles and triumphs of parenthood. The series won multiple awards during its run, including two Prism Awards for Mental Health storylines. This show is a tear-jerker, so have your tissues ready!
Best for: Adults and teens with parental discretion
Find it on: Netflix

Jessie (Adoption)

In this Disney Channel comedy, Jessie leaves her small-town in Texas to become a nanny for the Ross family in New York. Navigating the big city and taking care of four children – three of which are adopted, she works her way through countless adventures. This show is perfect for family viewing.
Best for: Family viewing
Find it on: Netflix

This is Us (Adoption)

This is Us follows the stories of three siblings, two biological and one adopted, all born on the same day as they enter their mid-30s. The show flashes back to different parts of their childhood to reveal the events that have shaped them as adults. This is Us has already picked up several nominations and awards after just one season. It has also been praised for its depiction of adoption by both adoptive parents and adoptees.
Best for: Adults and teens with parental discretion
Find it on: Hulu

The Fosters (Foster care/adoption)

The Fosters, another Freeform drama, profiles Lena Adams and Stef Foster – an interracial, lesbian couple that is raising a family of biological, adopted, and foster children. The series has won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Drama Series three years in a row!
Best for: Adults and teens with parental discretion
Find it on: Netflix


“Find it on” information is based on June 2017 availabiltiy and is subject to change.