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This week’s episode of The Good Doctor left me in tears: Yes, this autistic can get very emotionally overwhelmed by TV

Posted on 11 October 2018 under News

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A scene in this week’s episode of The Good Doctor left me in tears.

Yes, this autistic can get very emotionally overwhelmed by what he sees on TV, and that includes everything from real-life news to fictional dramas.

The Good Doctor episode includes a plotline where Lea’s back. However, Shaun is not happy.

Freddie Highmore has clearly done his research.

He continues to learn about when it’s appropriate to lie vs telling the truth

Towards the end of the episode, after he makes her breakfast, Shaun hands Lea back the baseball she gave him last season.

Given this whole episode has been about Shaun learning when to tell the truth and when to lie, the following scene is a climatic conclusion for the episode.

“It hurt”, Shaun says. “I didn’t want to tell you the truth because I didn’t know it, but I have to tell you the truth because it will help”

“Every night I would come home, and I would look at that baseball, and I would think of you. The baseball was here but you weren’t.”

Lea chimes in with a “that’s sweet”, but it’s visible to this autistic person that Shaun is starting to get really upset.

“No, it isn’t, it hurt. You hurt me!” Shaun’s getting visibly angry now.

Okay Shaun, you know…” Lea tries again.

“You went away, and it hurt, and it kept hurting, and now you’re back. If you stay you will go away again and it will hurt again, so I want you to go back to Hershey.”

“I know you don’t mean that, and I know…”

“Please go back to Hershey, or anywhere other than here,” Shaun exclaims, grabbing his bag and slamming the door as he leaves the apartment.

It can be hard when people come into my life, and seemingly as soon as I bond with them, they up and leave.

Figuring out why relationships break down is hard enough, let alone trying to come to terms with someone coming back into my life expecting things to be exactly like they were prior to them leaving.

I think it also really hit a nerve – who even created these types of idioms? – because of the time of year it is.

Retail stores already have Christmas decorations out, and even the media is counting down.

Christmas is a hard time for people like myself, whether autistic or not, the feelings of loneliness and rejection are amplified due to the world around us insisting it’s a happy and social time.

It’s almost the time of year where (mostly) my neurotypical friends post about Christmas parties and social functions leading into summer.

I also have autistic friends who do the same, although not as many. I end up getting really torn between socialising and attending events I’ve been invited to, or hiding at home with my cats.

Glassman and Murphy have a strong bond.

Usually I go with the second option, because I don’t have to think about what I say to my cats, nor do I have to try follow different conversations at the same time in sensory overwhelming environments. It’s not that I don’t want or need social interactions, it’s taking the easier option.

Shaun is a lot like me, except I hide from pretty much all social situations because I struggle to understand my emotions.

Freddie Highmore, for the most part, has portrayed autism in an authentic way of which I haven’t seen before. Freddie has clearly done a lot of research for the role.

In an interview for The Last Magazine, Highmore spoke about the character: “It was important to recognise that Shaun has to become his own person.

“He’s an individual and he can’t ever possibly represent everyone who has autism in the same way a neurotypical lead character of a television show could never possibly represent everyone who’s neurotypical in the world.

“As much as the research was important, it was also important to think about Shaun and build him as a character in his own right and not purely define him through his autism and the savant syndrome that he also has.”

Another reason I enjoy The Good Doctor is it isn’t just Shaun’s story. It isn’t just portraying autism. The other doctors have their own personal and work issues, and the show balances it all pretty well.

The first two episodes this season have been really good.  I’ve felt connected to the storyline and Freddie’s portrayal of Shaun.

Hopefully this continues. I’m interested in seeing what happens to Shaun’s mentor Dr Glassman, who in next week’s episode undergoes surgery for his tumour.

Showrunner David Shore has hinted in TV Guide that Shaun “will be challenged to be a caregiver to some extent to Dr Glassman. And what will happen between Shaun and Lea?

I know there’s a big debate as to whether only autistic people should portray autistic characters in film and TV. And that these kinds of shows are stereotypical.

I don’t want to pick a side here. However, from my experience, I don’t have the capacity to explain what happens when I’m having a meltdown, let alone re-enact them over and over again, which is what would be required for screen media.

If a neurotypical actor like Freddie Highmore portrays an authentic representation, then I’m all for it. Again, this representation may not feel authentic to all autistics, and I understand and accept that, too.

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