One of fall’s new shows is The Good Doctor on ABC.
It’s about a young doctor who has autism.
He also has Savant syndrome. 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.” (wikipedia, yes, but it’s the simplest explanation) Dr. Shaun Murphy’s “island of genius” has to do with knowledge about the human body, beyond what even other more experienced doctors have. They actually show this in a really cool way.
But here’s the thing. This young man has an extraordinary ability. Blow-your-mind capability to understand what is happening in someone’s body, even under extreme pressure situations. Watching him be able to figure out what was happening in the medical case last night, if all you saw of him was his work, you might be in awe and call him a genius.
For the majority of the show, the board of the hospital is arguing against hiring Shaun. They take it to a vote and vote against hiring him.
Because he has autism.
That’s the sticking point for them.
They are dismissing his incredible talents as if they mean nothing, because they can’t get past the fact that he has autism.
Even seeing a video that went viral of Shaun making a heroic save of a young boy in the airport, they still said no.
Shaun had one advocate, one doctor fighting for his spot in the hospital.
That advocate had known him for a good portion of his life, though.
All the others on the board, the other doctors, even shown proof of Shaun’s amazing medical skills, can’t get past that he has autism.
And this is a young man who is on that “high functioning” part of the spectrum. Who made it through medical school and has the capacity to be a surgeon.
And he’s still being judged harshly over one thing.
Autism. They’re seeing it as his defining characteristic and not accepting him because of it.
Think of the kids/adults you know who have autism. About 10% of those also have Savant syndrome, giving them what we’d think would be a leg up in the world, depending on what area their abilities lie in. But there will still be judgement over the autism.
And what about the other 90% of people with autism? Who are just “regular” people who happen to have autism? There’s no extraordinary talent that forces a medical board to eventually change their minds and hire them.
I cried watching the debate over whether or not to hire Shaun. Partly because I hated hearing how they were judging him due to his autism but mostly because my mind was on all those other people with autism who don’t have some incredible talent like Shaun does.
Are they just going to be told no all the time? Who will fight for them?
Of course, no surprise here (or there wouldn’t be a show past the pilot), the board eventually changes their minds and hires Shaun in the end. But we see that he’s still going to have to fight for what the others in his medical program take for granted.
While this is just a tv show, The Good Doctor does bring to light the ideas (and negative opinions) people may have of those with autism. It will be interesting (and at times uncomfortable and heartbreaking) to watch this new show. I might actually need more tissues for this than for This Is Us.