Since its premiere in September, I have often been asked the question: “What do you think of the TV show, ‘The Good Doctor?’”
If you don’t watch much television, “the Good Doctor” is about a surgical resident with autism who balances medical brilliance with interpersonal challenges. More popular than the TV hits “NICS” and “This Is Us,” “the Good Doctor” has 17.5 million total viewers every episode – that’s a lot of people!
Answering the question of what I think about the show is a tricky one. As I always say, if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. That is to say, each person with autism has his or her unique strengths and challenges. As autism is a spectrum disorder, we have many individuals who struggle with intellectual limitations, social interactions, and repetitive behaviors; and yet, we have individuals, like character Dr. Shaun Murphey, who are highly skilled, even brilliant, and would be considered on the “savant” end of the spectrum.
I’m pleased to see that a character with a disability has been accepted into mainstream television; however, my concern is that, although entertaining, the Good Doctor might lead the general public to believe that all persons with autism look and act like Dr. Murphey. And if that is the case, why should persons with autism require funding for supports and services? Dr. Murphy obviously does not require these services. However, for many persons with autism, they are essential.
Looking forward, I hope that we begin seeing characters on TV and in movies who reflect the wide range of abilities and characteristics of those with autism. Perhaps Dr. Murphey could treat a patient with moderate to severe autism; wouldn’t that be interesting?