The Good Doctor: Portraying Autism Disorder through an Interesting Story
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The Good Doctor: Portraying Autism Disorder through an Interesting Story

The Good Doctor

The Good Doctor is a TV show/series released in 2017 and consists of seven seasons, available on various different OTT platforms. It’s a series based on an autistic young doctor, Shaun who works in a hospital in San Jose, California. At first, he was not approved of working in a real-life hospital setting and treating his patients due to his condition even when he was as enthusiastic and knowledgeable as other Doctors and colleagues. However, with time and through his skills and determination, Shaun proved himself and his abilities in front of his co-workers.
The Good Doctor very well depicted medical-related things and medical cases as story-line. The series is a perfect blend of knowledge and bit of a good humor that will keep the viewers hooked to it.

How can watching ‘The Good Doctor’ or other medical-related TV shows benefit an individual?

The Good Doctor is the most recent successful TV drama which gained much popularity among medical students, and healthcare workers and is even watched and enjoyed by non-medical students, irrespective of their background. Medical dramas like The Good Doctor and Grey’s Anatomy are quite useful tools to teach those in healthcare, professions and make them familiar with healthcare workings and important medical terms and cases. The series helps visualize the biological cases, which helps the medical students to understand easily and helps them to engage with its content emotionally.

Also Read: Using punishment as an intervention for temper-tantrums in Autism Spectrum Disorder

It increases student’s motivation and curiosity to learn new things, helping them to consider different points of view as well. The medical series also helps build or understand the doctor-patient relationship, professionalism, and workings within a healthcare system. In other words, medical dramas teach medical ethics and put light on relevant issues that reflect upon bioethical issues. Even people not related to the medical field also gain knowledge and get a basic idea about the medical profession and get to experience medical life virtually.

Understanding psychological condition through ‘The Good Doctor’ series: Autism and savant syndrome

The Good Doctor series helped people understand the psychological condition of autism and savant syndrome, which was depicted by the main character, Shaun Murphy, who is a young resident in the series.

Autism spectrum disorder is a type of psychological disorder which affects the brain development. There are various types of autism, which include Asperger’s syndrome, Kanner’s syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder. It is believed that autistic people have lower IQ and cognitive abilities, but in this series, Shaun is clearly seen to have an exceptionally high IQ level and a sharp memory.

Symptoms of Autism and savant syndrome as shown by Shaun Murphy

Shaun Murphy in the series ‘The Good Doctor’ has autism along with savant syndrome. The symptoms involve a lack of empathy, and a diminished ability to relate to the environment and the people around. They have poor communication skills. Autistic people struggle to socialize with others or maintain communication as they have poor social skills. They show repetitive behaviors and find it difficult to maintain eye contact. All such signs and behaviors were depicted by Shaun in ‘The Good Doctor’.

It was difficult for Shaun to develop healthy, romantic relationships or express himself to others. Despite all such symptoms, Shaun was able to become a great surgeon and treated his patients because of savant syndrome. Savant syndrome is a rare condition and people having this along with other conditions like autism, have a great ability and talent. They really have an excellent memory and thinks critically. Although it’s a developmental disorder, people having it possess skills and abilities superior to others.

Also Read: How Serious IS Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Some watchers say’s that the series of The Good Doctor portrayed and explained autism so well and accurately that even the college lectures couldn’t while others argued and presented their concerns over the stereotype it creates in the minds of people regarding autistic individuals and their behaviour.

Facts about savant syndrome worth considering

First of all, not all autism spectrum disorder comes along with savant syndrome and it’s not necessary that those having savant syndrome must have autism as disabilities. Only one in ten individuals with autism have savant syndrome and possess good memory. Savant syndrome comes with one of a few special skills, naming science, math, music, art, and other mechanical skills. However, exceptionally good memory and savant syndrome go hand in hand always. Also, while some people are born with savant syndrome, others may acquire it and it lasts for lifetime.

‘The Good Doctor’ could be considered a ‘good series’ due to the following reasons
  • Unity and group discussions: The show emphasized the importance of discussions in work settings before making necessary decisions. In the show, other Doctors discussed whether they should allow Shaun Murphy to practice medicine as a surgeon with his condition or not.
  • Real character description: The show depicts the real mindset of people and their concerns about letting people with autism work in hospitals, considering the risks associated with it. It also shows the discrimination often faced by autistic people due to their condition as shown in initial episodes of the show where everyone voted to deny hiring Murphy to work.
  • Creativity: The show very well demonstrated the tactics and critical thinking along with visualizations used by Shaun to remember the terms and medical procedures.
  • Connectivity with characters: The viewers were able to relate or empathize with the characters of the show, especially Shaun Murphy, irrespective of his condition and profession. Those to whom some prejudices are fixed by society with respect to one’s performance and ability to perform specific tasks could highly relate to Shaun’s character when he was always been neglected or given little significance. For the same reason, he worked extra hard to prove himself in front of other Doctors and healthcare professionals, so that others could take him seriously and not always keep an eye on what he was doing. Everyone saw him the way they wanted him to and not how he wanted to be seen or treated.

Is Shaun Murphy from the good doctor, correct representative of the autism disorder?

  • The show creates a false mindset about autistic people. The audience could take up a lesson that all autistic individuals are savants like Murphy, which is not truly the case.
  • Murphy showed little to no empathy with the patients and other people, including staff members. As a result, he was too direct in expressing his concerns or news to his patients. It was often mistaken as arrogant or disrespectful behavior.
  • Murphy showed a lack of communication skills with patients and co-workers in the show while most of autistic people are good communicators and can converse well when needed, also they don’t behave as inappropriately as Shaun did sometimes.
  • In the Good Doctor series, it is shown that Murphy is unable to understand the concept of transgender. However, in reality, many autistic people may or may not be transgender themselves.
  • The show creates an image that autistic individuals have to be exceptional to get selected for a job or to be able to work in a professional setting by showing that Murphy got a chance to work in healthcare because of his tremendous knowledge and talent irrespective of his unprofessional behaviour.

Can people with autism work as a surgeon in real life as well? Here’s a list of other career paths they could follow

Yes, autism with savant syndrome, like any other person could become a doctor or a great surgeon due to their savant skills. It would be a bit challenging for autistic people to work normally, but since the savants have great, memory, they stand out among all and possess qualities of being a good doctor. They can remember and memorize all medical concepts along with terms and think critically. The savant word came from the French word savoir which means to know or learn a person. Nowadays, because of such series and TV shows, people are starting to accept savants at the workplace and instead of making them feel like outsiders and outliers, people started valuing their savant skills.

Also Read: Virtual Autism: Too much screen time harmful for Child

Other jobs autistic people with savant skills can consider working in could be computer science, musician, librarian, journal, taxi drifting, accounting, engineering, computer programming, mathematician, or waitress.


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