The Good Doctor/ABC/2017 (Autism/Savant)
Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore), a young man with autism who relocates from a quiet country life in Cheyenne, Wyoming to join a prestigious pediatric surgical unit at San Jose St. Boneventure Hospital in California.
In addition to his autism, Shaun also has savant syndrome with genius level skills in several areas. He has almost perfect recall. He sees things and analyses things that others can not.
“We hire Shaun and we give hope to those people with limitations that those limitations are not what they think they are. That they do have a shot” – Dr. Aaron Glassman
Shaun is also very honest, like the time he said to Dr. Claire Brown, “Why were you rude to me when we first met and now you want to be my friend? Which time was it when you were pretending?”
THE GOOD DOCTOR is based on the 2013 South Korean series of the same name. Graham Verchere portrays a younger version of Shaun in flashbacks.
Sam Gardner (Keir Gilchrist), an 18 year old Connecticut high school senior with autism. He talks in a monotone voice, can’t understand social cues, is brutally honest, takes everything very literally and is obsessed with penguins and all things Antarctica. To focus, he wears earphones to filter out sounds.
Sam lives with his family, including his caring father Doug (Michael Rapaport), an EMT who abandoned the family for eight months when Sam was born because he had a hard time relating to his son’s autism; Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Sam’s devoted and very organized mom who now struggles to find life outside of being Sam’s guardian by having a fling with a local bartender (Raul Castillo); and Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine), Sam’s younger sister who breaks a track-and-field record at her high school and receives an athletic scholarship. She is Sam’s protector and won’t anyone beat him up, except herself.
Sam’s friends include Zahid (Nik Dodani), a bad-advice-giving best friend and coworker at a Techtropolis electronics shop who insists on hugging Sam’s mom each time he sees her; Paige (Jenna Boyd), a schoolmate and later girlfriend; and Julia Sasaki (Amy Okuda), a 27 year old therapist who helps Sam navigate his love life, friends, and family while he strives for independence. At one point, Sam thought to pursue Julia romantically.
Max Braverman (Max Burkholder), disabled 8-year-old with Asperger syndrome who lives in Berkeley, California with his father Adam (Peter Krause), his mother Kristina (Monica Potter) who was diagnosed with cancer (and later recovers), and his two sisters, Haddie (Sarah Ramos) and Nora (Mia and Ella Allan).
Life with Autism makes life hard for Max. He has trouble communicating with others, thus finding it difficult to make friends or fit into school. Max also doesn’t like to be touched, but he loves bugs, anything about bugs.
Max’s autistic quirks include: lack of eye contact; blunt, matter-of-fact tone of voice; extremely honest and unrestrained observations (some funny, some outrageous); intolerance for the world around him and inconsistencies in his schedule; impatience with others; and lack of empathy.
When Max becomes friends with boy named Micah, who has spina bifida, they get along great and sleep over at each others houses. But their friendship ends when Max insensitively tells Micah that his wheelchair will always prevent him from playing basketball correctly.
Max later takes up photography with Hank Rizzoli (Ray Ramano), the ex-boyfriend of his Aunt Sarah. As they hang out with other, Hank realizes that, he too, has Asberger syndrome.
Eventually, with the help of his parents, Max learns to manage his disorder, (he even mounts a student council president campaign), and graduate from Chambers Academy, a charter school created especially for disabled students.
Note: In the 1989 movie “Parenthood,” on which the series is based, the character of Kevin (Jasen Fisher) had emotional problems. But there was no hint of autism or Asperger’s.
Grey’s Anatomy/ABC/2005+ (Autism)
Dr. Virginia Dixon (Mary McDonnell), a blunt, socially awkward Cardio-thoracic Surgeon who briefly worked as an attending physician at Seattle General Hospital in the State of Washington.
Dixon was being courted by Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens, Jr.), the Chief of Surgery to be the next head of Cardio-thoracic Surgery after the departure of Dr. Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith). Dixon ultimately declined the position but requested privileges at the hospital.
Called “a little off” by fellow doctors, Dr. Dixon suffered from Asperger syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As a child, she stuttered.
Dr. Dixon repetitively offers up all sorts of trivia and data on the subject of the heart. She is an expert in her field and will corrects physicians who use medical terminology inappropriately, like using the colloquial term piggy-back transplant instead of Heterotopic transplant.
She also avoids eye contact, does not comprehend sarcasm and has a thing about being touched. If a patient tries to hug her, she has a panic attack and flees the scene.To alleviate her panic, she needed firm pressure applied across her body to help calm her down. So two of the doctors on duty volunteered to wrap their arms around her body and squeeze. As Dr. Dixon told her helpers, this calming technique was used on cows before they get slaughtered.
Despite her quirks, Dixon performs her surgeries extremely fast. When she operates, she covers her entire head with only her eyes exposed.
Note: The Dr. Dixon character appeared on three episodes of the fifth season of this popular medical drama, including “These Ties That Bind” (2008), “All By Myself” (2008), and “Beat Your Heart Out” (2009).
Actress Mary McDonnell, who played the role of Dr. Virginia Dixon, is perhaps best remembered for her film roles as a white woman named “Stands with a Fist” captured by Native Americans in the western adventure “Dances with Wolves” (1990), snd May-Alice Culhane in Passion Fish (1992), as well as her TV roles as President Laura Roslin on the science fiction series BATTLESTAR GALACTICA/SYFY/2004-2009 and Captain Sharon Raydor on the police drama MAJOR CRIMES/TNT/2012-2016+.
The Bridge/FX/2013-2014 (Autism)
Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger), a hard-nosed, socially awkward police detective working for the El Paso Police Department who suffers (undiagnosed) from Asperger’s Syndrome, or a similar Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Sonya’s Asperger’s both helps and hinders her. It distances her emotionally from others, impeding her ability to sensitively approach victims’ families. But, on the bright side, her condition helps her focus and really look at things from a different point of view.
Detective Cross is teamed with homicide Detective Marco Ruiz (Damián Bichir), a charming Chihuahua State Police Officer. Their task: to capture a serial killer who is operating in both countries. His latest victim is an American judge known for anti-immigration views who was found dead on the bridge connecting El Paso, Texas and Juárez, Mexico. The body was actually in two parts: one half was the judge, the other half was a missing teen.
On a private note: Sonya’s sister, Lisa Cross was killed when Sonya was 15. Sonya makes a point of visiting her sister’s murderer in prison. He suffered brain damage but draws pictures, images that Sonya places on her refrigerator. Perhaps, one day, the drawings will offer some insight into the man’s motivation for killing her beloved sibling.
Note: The show title refers to the “Bridge of the Americas” that serves as a border crossing between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico.
The series is based on Broen, a Scandinavian crime series about a dead body found on the bridge connecting Denmark and Sweden.
To understand her role as someone with autism, actress Diane Kruger received guidance from Autism Speaks, a U.S. autism awareness and research organization. Alex Plank, a young filmmaker with Asperger’s was on-set to advise Kruger on her portrayal.
Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright), a savant with autism working with a covert operation known as the “Alphas,” whose members each exhibit superhuman abilities.
Gary has been diagnosed with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (more commonly known as ASD). He ranks 32 on the CARs Scale – the mild end of Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Considered a “human antenna,” Gary has the ability (transduction) to see all electromagnetic radiation/electromagnetic wavelengths and process information as fast as a computer. Consequently, he can hack into cellphone signals, television broadcasts, and WiFi frequencies. He can also find the wavelengths of non-electric objects like trees.
Some points of interest about Gary:
- Microwave towers interfere with his abilities
- He goes to bed at 9:30pm. If he misses his schedule, he stays up all night. He awakes each morning at 7:42am.
- Gary can not drive a car, but wants to.
- He can block telepathic signals.
- Gary finds it difficult to lie. He is trying to master that social skill, however, by starting with little white lies.
- He is susceptible to doS attacks used by hackers.
- He can’t read Nokia signals.
Along with others of his kind (“Alphas”), Gary uses his superhuman abilities to thwart crimes committed by those bad Alphas who use their gifts for evil. Their nemesis is a group known as “Red Flag” who recruits others with special abilities to work for their criminal causes.
Dr. Lee Rosen (David Strathairn), a neurologist/psychiatrist heads the Alpha team under the auspices the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, a criminal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Defense. Other Alpha team members include:
- Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie), former Marine with “Hyperkinesis” who has super reflexes and timing.
- Rachel Pirzad (Azita Ghanizada), a former CIA linguist with “Heightened Senses.” She can isolate any one of her five senses and heighten their abilities. So she can improve her eyesight, hearing, taste, smell and touch at will (but only one sense at a time).
- Nina Theroux (Laura Mennell), diagnosed with “Hyper Induction” that gives her the ability to bend a person’s will. They can not refuse anything she verbally instructs them to do.
- Bill “Mean Bill” Harken (Malik Yoba), a rude, former FBI agent diagnosed with Enhanced Strength – he can control his fight or flight adrenal mechanism. Although strong, Bill can’t sustain his power for long, due to exhaustion.
- Kat (Erin Way), a free-spirited female with the ability to learn any skill at a glance, but her memory will only last about a month, at which time, her mind dumps the information she acquired during that month, but she still retains the skills. She uses a video camera to capture the events of the last month so she can keep track of what happened to her.
See also: External Link – Gary Bell Video @ You Tube
The Middle/ABC/2009+ (Quirky kid with brittle bones)
Brick Ishmail Heck (Atticus Shaffer), a socially awkward, introverted 9-year-old boy with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Brittle Bone Disease). He is the youngest child of the Heck family who live in Orson, Indiana, near the City of Greencastle.
Born November 3, 2000, Brick (who is “clinically quirky” according to his teacher) has the habit of repeating the last words of his comments in a secret whisper, as if talking to his stomach. He is also an avid reader, loves the color yellow, and has a special relationship with his backpack (it’s his best friend).
Many of Brick’s quirks are similar to people with high functioning autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. Some more of Brick’s peculiarities and skills include:
- He makes a whooping sound when he lies.
- He has an eidetic (photographic) memory and loves three syllable words.
- His favorite book series is “Planet Nowhere.”
- About books, Brick said, “But I like books. I like the feel of the paper in my hands.”
- His favorite food is Doughnut Holes. He also likes lime green jello.
- He has difficulty finishing tasks/events due to his low interest span.
- Before going to bed, he says the Pledge of Allegiance 20 times and then rolls up his pajama bottoms because he’s afraid he will trip in his dreams.
- He fears crossing the covered bridge near his house and will do anything, even escape the family car from driving over the bridge which forces his family to find alternate routes home.
Brick’s family includes his father, Mike Heck (Neil Flynn), a stoic limestone quarry manager; mother Frances “Frankie” Heck (Patricia Heaton), a frazzled used car saleswoman/dental assistant; and his siblings, Axl Heck (Charlie McDermott), a popular, unmotivated and rebellious teenager who favors sports but not academics – he prances around the house without a shirt; and Sue Heck (Eden Sher), his dorky teenager sister with braces who seemingly fails at everything she does, but Sue’s sunny state of optimism motivates her to keep trying again and again.
Note: In real life, actor Atticus Shaffer also has “Osteogenesis Imperfecta,” a disease which causes fragile, brittle bones. He limps when he walks.
The actor’s first name was inspired by the character Atticus Finch, the lawyer in the classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.
KING AND MAXWELL/TNT/2013 (Autism)
Edgar Roy (Ryan Hurst), a high-functioning autistic savant who specializes in patterns and numerical sequences. Based in Washington, DC, he assists former Secret Service agents Sean King (Jon Tenney) and Michelle Maxwell (Rebecca Romijn) solve crimes at private detectives located in a lakeside beach house.
An adept computer hacker, Edgar used to work for a defense contracting company. He was framed by a rival defense contractor, but King, with a newly acquired law degree, proved him innocent and the hired Edgar to assist with their investigations at King and Maxwell. Edgar’s work requirement are rather simple. He likes to sit at a “friendly desk” and have soup for lunch on Mondays.
Edgar considers Sean and Michelle his friends, as well as Benny, a streetwise criminal (a counterfeiter whom Sean once helped convict) who provides information to their agency.
Note: The TV series is based on the crime novels of the same name written by David Baldacci. To research the part of an autistic person, Hurst read a book about the savant syndrome entitled “Islands of Genius” by Darold Treffert,
ST. ELSEWHERE/NBC/1982-88 (Autistic)
Tommy Westphall (Chad Allen), the occasionally seen autistic son of Dr. Donald Westphall (Ed Flanders) Westphall who worked at St. Eligius Hospital in Boston and had to juggle a busy schedule tending to the needs of his hospital patients and his autistic son.
In the final scene of the last episode, Tommy stared into a small crystal ball-the kind you turn upside down to make it snow inside. The writers of the program tried to leave the audience with the impression that the entire world of St. Eligius with all its storylines were the product of this autistic child’s imagination. Inside the crystal ball was a likeness of St. Eligius Hospital.
POLICE WOMAN/NBC/1974-78 (Autism)
Cheryl Anderson (Nichole Kallis) , an autistic female who lived at the Austin School for the Handicapped during the first season of this police drama.
Cheryl’s was the younger sister of Detective Suzanne “Pepper” Anderson (Angie Dickinson), an LAPD undercover officer who occasionally visited her.
Cheryl Anderson appeared on episodes ,”Warning: All Wives: (1974); and “The Beautiful Die Young” (1974) .