My name is Melissa Reiner, and I am the Autism Consultant on ABC’s show, The Good Doctor. I work with the writers and producers to help ensure that the role of Dr. Shaun Murphy, as well as all of the other characters who may interact with him, is portrayed with a level of authenticity and specificity. Having a diagnosis of autism is one aspect of who this individual is, but it is imperative that we are also able to fully reveal who this impressive young man is, as a doctor and as a person first. The notes that I contribute often shape the way a scene is written, and in some instances, the way a scene is rewritten. The integrity of the show is paramount, and I am honoured to be involved in such an important show. Here are a few examples of how my input affected change in certain scenes from each episode in Season 2 of The Good Doctor.
This episode dealt a lot with parents making sacrifices for their children’s overall well-being long term. A lot of really difficult decisions were made, like when the parents aimed to protect their daughter who wanted to free climb, as they chose to override her decision to have the surgery that would allow her to continue to take life threatening risks. Then there was the mom who decided to send her son to a place where he could have more support. We also saw Dr. Glassman grappling with having exhibited tough love with his daughter on the night she died. We even saw a glimmer of what it was like for Shaun to be sent away from his foster care parent who had to let him go before she succumbed to her illness.
While it may not seem like as profound a sacrifice from the outside, everything Shaun did to try to win Lea back and salvage their friendship— starting with even putting himself out there enough to even ask his friends at the hospital what they thought he should do— represented a tremendous sacrifice for him. Shaun pushed himself to come out of his comfort zone in an attempt to keep Lea in his life. He made the toughest decision of all when he summoned enough courage to say to Lea toward the end of the episode, “I don’t care what happened in Hershey, but I care that you care.”
That moment, for Shaun, was a totally honest, engaged and supremely meaningful moment. This was the conversation that he was avoiding and evading throughout the whole episode. It was supremely difficult for Shaun to interact with Lea in this way, but it ultimately helped reconnect him with his friend.