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.
When Shaun is walking with Dr. Lim and Dr. Park, he announces, “Marriage is confusing. No wonder you both failed at it.”
Since Lim and Park both know Shaun well, they were able to take what he said in stride. But people who aren’t familiar with that sort of black and white thinking might end up feeling hurt or slighted by such comments. Stating a fact from his perspective, Shaun’s words might have been construed as provocative or even incendiary. But the more we understand about individuals (who may either be on or off the spectrum), who often think in terms of black or white, the more we can extend our capacity, understanding and compassion.
In my work, instead of being offended if I hear a comment from an individual who has black and white thinking that doesn't sit well with me, I might use declarative communication to simply reflect back what I hear, instead of lashing out or becoming accusatory. By reflecting back what I hear, I offer the person who made the black and white comment an opportunity to develop self awareness. Often, we may not have awareness of what we’ve said, or how what we’ve said might affect another person. Self awareness has to come first before we can open up our awareness out to others. It is this awareness that is the building block for the cultivation of relationships.