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.