What We Know So Far About 'The Good Doctor's' Portrayal of Autism

This September, ABC is getting a new show centered around an autistic doctor. “The Good Doctor,” based on a South Korean show of the same name, stars Freddie Highmore as Dr. Shaun Murphy, a pediatric surgeon on the autism spectrum who is described as having “savant syndrome.”

Speaking on a panel, the show’s executive producer, David Shore explained the steps the show took to portray autism. “We saw a lot of doctors, we consulted with people, we’ve got people on the spectrum who we’re working with,” Shore said, according to Deadline. “But he is a specific character, he’s not there to represent autism, he’s there to represent Dr. Shaun Murphy.”

Shore also said the show works hard to avoid stereotyping, despite focusing on “savant syndrome,” which is not specific to autism and is considered incredibly rare both within and outside of the autism community.

Highmore, the show’s star, also commented on portraying Dr. Murphy, saying:

What we are trying to do is moving away from perhaps the stereotypical versions of people with autism that have been shown on television and in certain movies in the past, the number one thing being that they are somehow devoid of emotion, that they don’t experience as broad a range of emotions as neurotypical people do, and of course that’s complete nonsense.

So far it does not appear as though any of the cast members are on the autism spectrum.

This is not ABC’s first disability-oriented series. In May, the network announced its show “Speechless,” a 30-minute comedy about a family with a teenage son who has cerebral palsy (CP), would return for a second season. Its main character, JJ, is played by Micah Fowler, who has CP.

Netflix is also releasing a new show centered around a character on the spectrum. “Atypical,” which premieres on August 11, is an eight-episode series following a high school senior named Sam (played by Keir Gilchrist, who is not on the spectrum). Sam’s friend Christopher, however, is played by Anthony Jacques, an actor on the autism spectrum.

“The Good Doctor” premieres Monday, September 25, at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

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