My review of ABC's "The Good Doctor"
"When a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome joins St. Bonaventure hospital's surgical unit..."
Look, I'm all for spreading autism awareness / acceptance on behalf of our community, but here's my thing: Call me when you are ready to show a story about OUR autism.
Many people enjoyed the premier of The Good Doctor ABC last night - whether they have high or low functioning loved one's on the spectrum. I, on the other hand, find it hard to relate to programs like this.
Savant autism just isn't relatable for us.
The opening scene shows the main character - Dr. Shaun Murphy - dressing and grooming himself in preparation for the day. Although I do feel that Freddie Highmore did capture specific nuances of an autistic individual, my immediate thought as the mother of a nonverbal Black-American female with autism was, "I can't wait for her to be able to dress herself like that one day!" Then I became lost in my own thoughts of what life will be like for her in the future... *SHOOT! Let me rewind back to what I missed* Ugh...this never fails.
There were scenes that stood out to me more than others; like the sensory overload that Dr. Murphy experienced when he was in the airport terminal. I felt that the visible representation of what he was feeling internally was spot on. Due to Sneak's Sensory Processing Disorder, she constantly wears noise canceling headphones, so I get that.
Another part that stood out to me was in the previews for the remainder of the season. We see that Dr. Murphy will be continuously discriminated against and ridiculed by his Supervisor at the hospital. As an advocate for my daughter, I understand that this is indeed reality for many people with high functioning autism in the workplace, but it still hurts to see it. I must say that I did appreciate that.
While I can see the draw to the show for many families, I have my own personal list of what I'd rather like to see presented by major networks below:
Show me people of color: How many of the shows currently airing about autism / special needs (Speechless / Atypical / The Good Doctor) represent people of color? Not. A. One.
Show me the story about the mother who lives with high functioning depression but uses blogging and event planning as an outlet. (Sound familiar?)
Show me the story of the nonverbal Black-American girl with natural hair who is celebrated when she is able to sit long enough to have her thick, curly tresses styled...
(OK...so those examples are super personal for me, so let me stick with the generic ones)
Show me LOW FUNCTIONING AUTISM - PERIOD: Guess what? Not every single person in this world with autism has the cute, quirky high functioning type. In Speechless, Atypical and The Good Doctor, JJ, Sam and Dr. Murphy are all able to communicate their thoughts, needs and feelings either verbally or with a Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) device. For many families like mine, this is a daily struggle. We don't have "quirky" over here...
Show me struggle: I do believe that it is possible to build a storyline around a struggling family while highlighting life's triumphs and realities for them. Now, the show doesn't have to totally be a depression fest, but give us a break! Can we talk about the cost of therapies and how our insurance companies won't cover them? THAT is indeed reality.
Show me REAL situations: Sorry, but when that mother in the airport allowed Dr. Murphy to cut her son open with that confiscated TSA knife and bottle of liquor, I thought "So...exactly how long does it take the ambulance to arrive to that airport?" But...I digress. Character development. I get it.
Show me the parents who are fighting to keep their marriage together as the stress of their loved-ones diagnosis becomes too much for them to handle.
Show me the tug-of-war between caring for your low functioning child with autism while also showing equal attention to your neurotypical children.
Show me the parents who never make it out for a date because they just can't leave their loved one with anyone.
Show me POOP: (Well, not actual poop on the screen… but… POOP HAPPENS!)
Show me the people who prey on families like mine with their snake oil remedies and cure schemes: (Because, if I receive ONE MORE EMAIL...)
Show me the friendships that end because when folks don't have children with special needs, they have no time for you: (I mean...we all have that story)
Show me the parents who cry themselves to sleep at night because they constantly wonder who will take care of very loved ones with disabilities when they are gone.
Show me...the reality for so many of us.
If these networks need help writing, I will throw my hat in the ring to offer real life experience.
Will I continue to watch the show? Maybe. Would I like to see more realistic representations in the future? Of course.
Share your thoughts about the show with me below!
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