Disability: Seeing the Unseen

“We hire Shaun and we give hope to…people with limitations that those limitations are not what they think they are, that they do have a shot!”

Dr. Aaron Glassman The Good Doctor Episode 1 Season 1

I’m a little late to joining the bandwagon as the show is already in its second season, but I started watching a show called The Good Doctor. For those who don’t know, the show is about a man named Shaun Murphy who is a surgeon. He also happens to be a man with autism. I’ve been really enjoying the show so far, and was inspired to tell me story about my own experiences as a person with a disability. 

There is one word to covers the two reactions people with disabilities generally receive: doubt. There is either doubt in the person’s capabilities, or there is doubt that the person has a disability at all. In the show The Good Doctor, Shaun Murphy fits into the first category. His memory, visual spatial skills, and analytical skills are far above average. He is an asset to the hospital he is working in. However, many of his coworkers can’t see past his very apparent disability. I, on the other hand, fit into the latter category. My disability is invisible, and I often find myself having to prove that I actually am a person with a disability. 

From the time I was a small girl, it was apparent to everyone in my inner circle that I was a little different from my peers. Spend enough time me, and one would definitely be able to see my deficits, but only if that person is paying close attention. 

“You don’t seem like a person with a disability to me”, a friend once told me. 

Little did she know that it’s that same sentiment that often makes it difficult for me to get the help I need. The specific kind of disability I have is learning disability. There are different kinds of learning disabilities, and most of them are language based. That means people with those types of learning disabilities have trouble with spoken or written communication. The most well known language based learning disability is dyslexia. Communication is not a problem for me though. In fact, I’ve been told that I express myself very well, especially through writing. 

For me, the problem lies in processing. Many activities that might take other people minutes to complete can take hours for me, however, this would not be easy to notice through mere minutes of conversation with me. 

“I wish I had your brain.”, a classmate from college once told me. She did not understand that it was not a superior intellect that made me successful during my time in college. It was my work ethic and perseverance that made me successful. Like any other person, I work extremely hard for what I want, and in some cases I have to put in even more effort than the average person. 

For Shaun Murphy from The Good Doctor, his disability is front and center for those who meet him, and masks his capabilities. They don’t take the time to understand him and realize that his disability is only one part of who he is. That is a reality for many people with disability. In my case, people don’t take the time to understand that some disabilities are invisible, and you never know what someone might be going through. My take away from the show The Good Doctor and my experiences is that we might all have our different stories to tell, but there is one thing that connects us: the desire to be understood.


28 thoughts on “Disability: Seeing the Unseen

  1. You are absolutely right. People really don’t take the time to understand, let alone accept the fact that there are such things as invisible disabilities. This world needs a major reboot! People need to stop being so judgemental and more empathetic.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is an excellent post. I took several disability studies classes in college, and it transformed what I thought I knew about culture and rhetoric surrounding people with disabilities. I really appreciate your comment about the doctor’s disability being only one part of him; I think that so many people eat up “inspiration porn” when they see someone “overcoming” their challenges, that it seems to be the subject’s entire identity. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thankyou!! I really think there is a need for more people who are willing to do what you did, and step into another’s shoes! We understand each other so much better that way! I think you’re right about inspiration porn! Lol. I think part of the problem is the focus on the disability before seeing the whole person. The person with the disability feels he or she needs to prove himself or herself, and that leads to the inspiration porn!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I have been following The Good Doctor and I love it! I feel like it’s forcing this issue into the spotlight, challenging people’s views on those with disabilities. By allowing the audience to get to know Shauna and see how intelligent he actually is, it is helping to rewrite the stereotypes our society has come to (incorrectly) accept.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, the show is so good! 😁 I completely agree! The show is definitely helping this topic get more attention, and helping to break stereotypes! Being a person with a disability just means the person functions a little differently than others, but he or she is still a very capable person!

    Like

  5. Hi Charli,
    That was very well written! I have family members that fall on both sides of the visible/invisible disability dilemma and both have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to be aware though to make sure people get the support they need.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thankyou! And wow that is interesting! It is true that people with visible and invisible disabilities have our different issues! Just like you said though, it is very important we all get support when we need it! I think it starts by sharing our stories and understanding each other!

    Like

  7. I’ve never seen the show ‘The Good Doctor’, but I have a friend with an invisible disability, and she has to deal with similar issues! It’s true that just because someone has difficulties in certain areas of life, it doesn’t make them any less of a person. Everyone has strengths in some areas of life, and it’s important to focus on people’s strengths and accept (rather than dwell on) their limitations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just started watching the Good Doctor, and i’m really enjoying it so far! You are right! In that way we can encourage each other! hope your friend is getting help when she needs it! It’s definitely not easy!

      Like

  8. Hello Charli,
    Great post! Very informative and a good reminder that so much of another’s experience remains unseen or unknown to the rest of us. Also a reminder of the trappings of assumption. I love the last sentence which connects everyone to the universal desire to be understood. Thanks for sharing and happy to get to know you and your blog.
    Roger
    Mind and Love

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Having a disability by itself is a heavy burden already, we should not make it even more difficult by doubting the people who suffer from it. Thank you so much for sharing your story, I do think that this is a very important topic to talk about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou! Yes, I think it is very important to spread awareness. Not all disabilities can be seen. That’s important to remember. While others debate over whether a person actually has a disability or not and actually needs help, that person is struggling.

      Liked by 1 person

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