The Good Doctor : Highlights How People on the Spectrum Can Be Exploited by Those They Trust Most
The Good Doctor
The Good Doctor
Maintaining relationships is already challenging enough for people who have autism, but they’re also often targeted for exploitation. On “The Good Doctor,” new neighbor Kenny (Chris D’Elia) has taken advantage of Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) from the very beginning, and in last week’s episode, one of Shaun’s colleagues even pointed out he was being manipulated after he footed the bill for Kenny and Kenny’s girlfriend to go to an amusement park.
But Shaun is confused because Kenny has provided genial companionship for him in the past. They watch TV, eat dinner, and play video games together. Kenny once helped Shaun break into the apartment complex’s pool when he wanted a midnight swim. And Kenny, who has just gone through a breakup, even leaves Shaun a note in the morning: “Shaun, Thanks for being there for me. Your best bro, Kenny.”
While these are tangible examples of friendship Shaun can point to, he doesn’t see the more insidious ways that Kenny has been taking advantage of him, usually financially or for material goods. Kenny has used Shaun’s cable hookups, eats his food, and even straight-out admits he’s taken his money (but it was to order food for both of them, natch).
It’s only in Monday’s episode, when Shaun brings pizza to Kenny’s apartment to share, that he starts to actually realize that something is wrong. Not only is Kenny already holding his own March Madness party without inviting Shaun, but he’s “borrowed” Shaun’s TV without asking permission and rejects his company because his “quirks… [don’t] really jive with this kind of face time” with other people. Kenny then takes the pizza before shoving Shaun out the door.
In short, Kenny is embarrassed by Shaun and only is “friends” with him when it’s convenient and advantageous. While this example may seem ridiculous (did he really have to take Shaun’s pizza along with his dignity?), it’s also relatively benign. Because people with autism have difficulty reading emotions and motivations, this makes them susceptible to being taken advantage of, or even worse, becoming victims of abuse, violence, or neglect.
The organization Autism Speaks outlines some ways to recognize and prevent abuse of people with autism. Those with families as strong support systems may have an advantage since those people can help interpret interactions and be on the lookout for signs of abuse. With that said, the community at large should also be on the lookout (as seen in the example with Shaun’s colleague) for everyday exploitation but also how authority figures can abuse their power and use it against those on the spectrum. It’s also important to note that it’s often a family member or “friend” — those closest to the person with autism — who is responsible for the abuse or exploitation.