A Peek into the Hit TV Show and its Relevance to the Autism Community
As we dive into the new year, we at Hopebridge are thankful for what 2017 brought us. The bright faces we get to see every day at our 15 new autism treatment centers that opened doors this year. The expansion of our team to more than 500 therapists and professionals across three states. And above all, the big – and sometimes seemingly little – successes achieved by our kiddos: first words, bite of a new food, creation of friendships, t-ball games and more.
While it may not live up to our Hopebridge moments, we’re also grateful that we saw autism appear more often in the media this year. From the introduction of Julia on “Sesame Street,” to the story of high school student, Sam, on “Atypical,” America was able to digitally meet more youth with autism in 2017.
Another example is ABC’s hit show, “The Good Doctor,” which dives into the second half of its first season tonight. Freddie Highmore plays Dr. Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome, and was recently nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.
The conversation surrounding “The Good Doctor” is controversial in the autism community, much like that of other shows. Some are excited about the attention it puts on autism spectrum disorder, whereas others believe it is too stereotypical or unrealistic.
Hopebridge’s thoughts on the show and the main character? As we prepare for tonight’s episode, here are eight things we took away from the first half of the season. We’ll try not to give away too many spoilers in case you still need to catch up 😉
- It’s fiction. With this drama, we have to take some scenes with a grain of salt (Yes, we’re talking about the airport scene where he makes it past TSA, for starters). For those who are touched by ASD in some way, it can be tricky to watch someone try to portray living with it, especially if it drastically differs from your experience. We don’t want to minimize that, but remember, we also have to suspend reality with “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Game of Thrones!”
- There are a ton of stereotypes and skepticisms around individuals with developmental delays and disorders, especially in the workplace. It’s all too often that the world belittles differently abled individuals, or believes they won’t be able to live up to the task at hand without even giving them a shot. The world needs to do better in recognizing individuals’ gifts, in addition to their challenges.
- Shaun’s relationship with his brother shows true commitment. Whether or not we have autism, many of us would be lucky to have this type of bond with such a supportive sibling to stand by and teach. These scenes always leave us in tears!
- Communication is tough, no matter where someone is on the spectrum. We like that “The Good Doctor” shows that ASD and communication challenges themselves don’t correlate with a low IQ. Even those who can speak verbally may still have a tough time with social interactions, due to difficulties reading situations or expressing certain feelings.
- People with ASD do not lack emotion or intimacy. In fact, some are hypersensitive to emotions and often shield it so it doesn’t overwhelm them, which can seem as if they are unemotional. Others have no trouble displaying it at all and can actually have the opposite effect. In this season of “The Good Doctor,” while Dr. Murphy seems to have a more difficult time revealing his emotions than others, we still see him experience everything from anger to happiness to the desire for love and affection.
- Individuals with autism have challenges, but they also have unique abilities and ways of learning. Dr. Murphy seems to think in a beautiful, more illustrative way than neurotypical individuals, and can visualize the human body in a way that puts him ahead.
- Autism is only one piece of this show. While it is certainly a key topic since the main character has ASD, some episodes go by and it is rarely or never mentioned. A diagnosis doesn’t define a person, so why should it define every moment of a show?
- Above all else, Dr. Shaun Murphy has one key similarity that he shares with others who have ASD… he’s not the same as anyone else with autism! Even if you can’t relate to the show because your experience is different, remember that all experiences with autism are different.
What do you think of the show? We’ll be watching tonight and throughout the season, and we hope you’ll join the conversation on the Hopebridge Facebook page! Check back with us next Monday when we recap some of the topics from the most recent episode.