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On the Spectrum, On TV

October 23, 2017

Two new television series have hit the mainstream with a dose of reality for the 1 in every 68 people in the United States who are diagnosed on the autism spectrum, and their families, friends, and colleagues. The Good Doctor, airing on ABC Mondays at 10/9c, and Atypical, now streaming on Netflix, portray two different young men as they navigate living with developmental differences. Each series contributes to important discussions about the needs, strengths, and challenges of people with autism—and ProSocial has been conducting grassroots outreach to help spark and sustain those conversations.

THE SHOW: Atypical
THE STORY: Sam (played by Keir Gilchrist), a high-school senior with autism, is seeking more independence from his family, hoping to find a girlfriend, balance work at his retail job, and overcome the bullying too many face as part of youth. His parents and younger sister, meanwhile, are grappling with their own struggles of finding themselves outside of their relation to Sam, and the show provides many emotional scenes showcasing the hilarity, conflict, and comfort of family.
VIEWER COMMENTS: Mo Bailey, a mother of a son with Asperger’s and a speaker, writer, and consultant, cites the show’s “realism, entertainment and poignancy,” commenting that Atypical is “the most honest media depiction of Asperger’s that I’ve seen.” In a joint review of Atypical by Rebecca Einstein Schorr and her 17-year-old son Ben, who was diagnosed with autism at age 6, Ben concluded: “It’s really important that people see this show so that they can understand what autism can be like.”
OUR OUTREACH: On August 10, ProSocial organized an intimate screening and panel discussion at Netflix studios in Los Angeles. Moderated by Matt Asner of the Autism Society of America, the panel included three Atypical team members—creator Robia Rashid, consultant on portrayal of autism spectrum disorder Michelle Dean, and actor Anthony Jacques, who is diagnosed with ASD—in addition to Alex Plank, founder of This event kick-started our outreach to relevant national organizations, advocates, bloggers, and local groups.
WATCH IT: Stream it anytime on Netflix.

THE SHOW: The Good Doctor
THE STORY: Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) is a rising surgical resident in a prestigious hospital, where his autism and savant syndrome are both strong advantages in diagnosing the complexities of human illnesses, as well as hindrances for some of his interactions with patients and colleagues. The show is inspiring and dramatic, with the fast-paced excitement of hospital chaos to boot.
VIEWER COMMENTS: At a screening and panel discussion we coordinated at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior with The Good Doctor’s creator David Shore and influential members of the autism community, one audience member stood at the end of the Q&A session to give his perspective on the show. As a young man affected by an autism diagnosis, he said he was happy that for the first time he could so greatly identify with a character on TV. Many parents and teachers are expressing hope that The Good Doctor will increase sensitivity to the barriers people with autism face in the workplace while also inspiring young viewers in the community with its positive messages about neurodiversity.
OUR OUTREACH: ProSocial has conducted wide outreach to mission-aligned organizations, such as Autism Speaks and The Autism Society of America, as well as developing partnerships with bloggers and advocates who have been participating in a weekly discussions around each episode in their communities and online.
WATCH IT: Mondays on ABC at 10/9c. See past episodes and clips at

Congratulations to our client, Sony Pictures Television, which produced both shows. The series are a success: Atypical has been renewed for a second season coming in 2018, and The Good Doctor has been picked up for an extended season carrying out through the fall. We encourage you to watch and join the conversations happening on Twitter and Facebook, with #Atypical and #TheGoodDoctor.