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.
In the second episode of the season, Claire goes after Shaun following an encounter he has with Lea, where she surprised him at work to see if he could have lunch with her, but Shaun told her that he doesn’t have time.
Claire follows Shaun and asks him, “What’s wrong, what did she do?”
Shaun is non-responsive. Then Claire reaches out to touch Shaun on his arm, and he recoils.
Based on my input and interactions with the writers for this episode, we understand the importance of utilizing declarative communication -- with no questions or commands, just statements. In my practice, I recommend that we simply state what we see, or use “I” statements.
Claire then pauses, and accesses this shift in communication style to declaratively say, “You don’t want to talk to Lea. I don’t understand.”
Upon this use of declarative communication, Shaun is able to engage in a meaningful and profound way when he reveals that he doesn’t know how he feels. He goes on to say, “I can’t be honest if I don’t know how I feel.”