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'Doctor Who' Includes New Companion With Dyspraxia

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The 11th season of “Doctor Who” made headlines when it announced the 13th Doctor would be played by a woman (Jodie Whittaker). Now that the show has aired, it’s proving to have more character firsts with the Doctors companions.

Ryan, one of the three companions for the Doctor this season, has dyspraxia. Ryan (Tosin Cole) explains the developmental disorder on his YouTube channel and how it affects his life. In one scene, he’s shown struggling to ride a bike.

Dyspraxia affects coordination and balance and is typically noticed in early childhood when children have problems with walking, writing and other milestones related to motor skills. People with dyspraxia may also have a learning disability.

Rachel Charlton-Dailey, who has dyspraxia, praised the show’s depiction in a piece for iNews. She said Ryan is a “fully formed character who knows his illness is a small part of his personality.”

“For a child growing up the worst thing you can be is different,” she wrote. “Being disabled makes you feel isolated and like there is something wrong with you. But through Ryan, other dyspraxic children will now see that their disability isn’t something to be ashamed of.”

Cole’s portrayal of dyspraxia was well-received by many others with the disorder, who were excited to see dyspraxia represented.

According to Metro, the show consulted with the Dyspraxia Foundation, which praised the show’s portrayal. “Doctor Who’s” showrunner, Chris Chibnall, decided to incorporate dyspraxia because his nephew has the condition.

Though the show received praise for its inclusion of dyspraxia, Cole does not have the disorder nor does he have a disability, according to information available online. Less than 2 percent of characters on television have a disability, according to the Ruderman Family Foundation. In contrast, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported 1 in 4 American adults have a disability, up from 1 in 5. Despite 25 percent of the U.S. population living with a disability, when characters are disabled, the roles tend to go to able-bodied actors.

“Doctor Who” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on BBC America. If you missed the premiere, you can watch the first episode here.

Originally published: October 9, 2018
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