Autism on screen: TV shows, films championing autism representation

Autism on screen: TV shows, films championing autism representation

Over the years, society’s perception of mental health has undergone a remarkable transformation. Topics that were once taboo are now being openly discussed and embraced. This shift in attitude is exemplified by the portrayal of characters with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in mainstream television shows and movies.

One of the most significant strides towards inclusivity in media representation has been the portrayal of characters with ASD. In the past, such characters were rare, and when they did appear, they were often portrayed stereotypically or as side characters. However, in recent years, there has been a notable increase in the number of shows and movies featuring main characters with ASD.

These portrayals are not only a significant step towards inclusivity but also serve as a valuable tool for increasing understanding and empathy towards individuals with ASD. While we may never fully comprehend the experiences of those on the spectrum, these shows and movies provide valuable insights into their world.

In observance of World Autism Awareness Day (April 2), here is a list of some of the best TV shows and movies that feature characters on the autism spectrum:

“Atypical” (TV series, 2017–2021)

This Netflix original series follows the life of Sam, a high school student on the autism spectrum, as he navigates the challenges of adolescence, relationships and independence. The show has been praised for its authentic portrayal of autism and its impact on individuals and their families.

“The Good Doctor” (TV series, 2017–2024)

Dr. Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome, is the central character in this medical drama series. The show explores Shaun’s exceptional medical abilities and his struggles to connect with his colleagues and patients.

“Keys to the Heart” (Film, 2023)

The film follows the story of a troubled boxer as he moves in with his long-lost mother and autistic pianist brother — but must fit in with a family he hasn’t known for years. It features a stellar cast including actor Zanjoe Marudo, internationally acclaimed actress Dolly de Leon, Miss Universe Philippines 2023 Michelle Dee and Elijah Canlas.

“Temple Grandin” (Film, 2010)

This biographical film stars Claire Danes as Temple Grandin, an autistic woman who revolutionized practices for the humane handling of livestock on cattle ranches. The film provides insight into Temple’s unique perspective and her contributions to animal science.

“Parenthood” (TV series, 2010 - 2015)

This TV series includes a storyline involving Max Braverman, a young boy with Asperger’s syndrome, and his family’s efforts to understand and support him. The show portrays the challenges and joys of raising a child with autism.

“Extraordinary Attorney Woo” (TV series, 2022)

“Extraordinary Attorney Woo” is a 2022 South Korean series starring Park Eun-bin as Woo Young-woo, a rookie attorney with autism. The show follows her journey at a major Seoul law firm, highlighting her unique perspective and dedication. Kang Tae-oh and Kang Ki-young also star, adding depth to the narrative. It’s a heartfelt portrayal of resilience and empowerment.

“The A Word” (2016 - Present)

This British TV drama follows a family as they come to terms with their young son’s autism diagnosis. The show explores the impact of autism on family dynamics and challenges stereotypes associated with the disorder.

These TV shows and movies are just a few examples of the growing representation of individuals on the autism spectrum in the media. By showcasing diverse and authentic portrayals, these stories help to promote awareness, understanding and acceptance of neurodiversity in society.


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