So after hearing from a handful of friends that I should watch “The Good Doctor” and seeing promo after promo from ABC saying that it’s the number one new drama on their network, I thought ok, ok, I’ll give it a shot. Truth be told, while I have wanted to watch it ever since I heard about it, I have been extremely nervous. I don’t know about you, but seeing one of the most intimate and painful parts of your life portrayed on a screen when I have ZERO control over how it’s filtered is not exactly my idea of entertainment. That being said, I couldn’t resist. I binge watched all the current episodes the past couple of nights. That also might be the reason I dozed off in the car rider pick up line today. Hmmm? I’d rather believe that is just a result of only having 1 cup of coffee as opposed to my normal 3. It’s currently 4:41 pm, and now I want coffee. Crap. I’d rather hold out for wine. But I digress.
Dr. Shaun Murphy is the “Good Doctor” in the show. He’s a surgical resident that also has Autism. The first episode was extremely hard for me to watch. I had to turn it off a couple times, then psych myself back up to watch it. Shaun has flashbacks to his childhood throughout the show. They are very painful. Lots of abuse, ridicule, and bullying. While nothing to the extent of any of these situations has ever happened to my son, Michael, it twists my stomach into knots to see these things playing out on television.
Probably my favorite aspect of the show so far is how the writers and the actor that plays Shaun, Freddie Highmore, captures his innocence. Maybe that’s not the best word. Let me give some context. One of the things that I love most about Michael is that he doesn’t have ulterior motives. He says what he means and he means what he says. He doesn’t manipulate. He doesn’t try to hurt people’s feelings. He doesn’t lie. I truly think for Michael, and for many people with Autism, they truly do see everyone as equal. I hear Autism moms all the time that say one of the hardest parts about having their child teased is that they don’t even realize its happening, and that is NOT because they are stupid or immature. It’s because they would never do that to anyone else, so why would anyone do that to them. Highmore does a fantastic job, in my opinion, of capturing this. The sweetness of his character. The genuineness of his heart.
In the show, Dr. Murphy also has Savant Syndrome. I was not familiar with this term on its own, although I think we have all heard “Autistic Savant.” I consulted the experts (Wikipedia of course! https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savant_syndrome ) and found that Savant Syndrome “is a condition in which a person demonstrates one or more profound and prodigious capacities or abilities far in excess of what would be considered normal, yet often also has significant deficits in other areas of brain processing.” I also found this little tidbit to be super interesting: it is estimated that half of all savants have Autism, and that 10% of people with Autism have some form of Savant abilities.
While it is not confirmed, and it COULD totally be that I think my kid is the best ever, but there is a chance that Michael falls into this category of Autistic Savant. He has a memory unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. He can remember specific details of events from when he was a very young toddler, and this was back when he was not speaking at all so that makes it even more incredible! He has memorized every single street sign on every single road that we have ever driven. He knows every museum on the map of the National Mall in Washington DC. He could spell every name of the kids in his class in the first week of kindergarten. Photographic memory...you get the idea!
Dr. Murphy also has a photographic memory, and throughout the show, they create these visuals where they show what Shaun is remembering, like the graphics from a textbook, a diagram of an organ, or or a map of vessels in a certain body system. I imagine this is very much like what Michael must be seeing in his brain when he builds a Lego structure that blows me away or draws a picture that makes my mouth drop. He just sees it in his brain and executes it with whatever medium he is working with. It’s incredible. Especially when you consider that his speech is still significantly behind those of his peers. I’m not so naive that I don’t know what people are wondering when they hear Michael speak, but I love to see people react when they take the time to watch him draw, build, write, or read! And that’s exactly what happens with Dr. Shaun Murphy in the show. He is written off as stupid and then astounds people with his accuracy. It’s quite rewarding to watch!
One thing I have to remember while I’m watching the show, is that this is not my child. It is a portrayal of ONE person on the Autism spectrum. While there are a lot of similarities between my child and Dr. Murphy, there are also a lot of differences. I catch myself getting anxious during a scene, and I have to remind myself that no, Michael doesn’t struggle with that. No, I do not need to email his therapists!
So if you’ve been wondering if you should add The Good Doctor to your DVR, I say yes! The show does a fantastic job capturing the humanity of a person with Autism, and that is (in my highly sought after opinion😜) one of the best things that could be done for Autism awareness! A person’s ability to speak and converse DOES NOT define what is in their hearts or minds. You might have to work a little harder to build a relationship with a person with Autism, but I guarantee it will be well worth the effort!