Last night on Fox’s new show Mental, the storyline centered around a young girl with autism. The character, Lisa, was written as a severe autistic child with the traditional autistic symptoms. By “traditional”, I mean the characteristics that are usually associated with a child with autism. She had sensory issues with new clothing items, transitioned poorly, poor eye contact and limited communication skills. She also had one area that she excelled in, playing the piano.
This character’s primary form of communication was by echoing words that were spoken to her. She also had a unique form of communication that she used. The main character, Dr. Gallagher, played by Chris Vance, had two lines that really struck a chord in me. The first one was “I just got better at listening.” This was said in response to the fact that he figured out that the character Lisa was trying to tell him something with the piano. I feel the same way about my son. His nonverbal communication hasn’t changed, but I have gotten “better at listening” to what he is trying to tell me when he doesn’t have a communication device close at hand to use to talk.
The show handled the subject of autism gently. They didn’t hit you over the head with this character and autism. The writers developed this storyline to show the best way to handle what could be a tragic situation. In this episode, Lisa sees her father being shot and killed. The police think she is in shock and, after they were unable to get hold of child protective services, calls Dr. Gallagher. After a brief “conversation” with Lisa, Dr. Gallagher recognizes that the girl may be autistic and has her brought to the hospital.
The other characters on the show display their knowledge or lack of knowledge of autism in the following scenes. Research is done about some of the treatments and they are briefly discussed. In the end, the doctor’s do what they can to communicate and treat this young girl on her terms.
Toward’s the end of the episode, Dr. Gallagher says the second line that most of us can relate to. Holding a gun on the shooter of the young girl’s father, the killer tells him that he won’t shoot to save his life. The doctor agrees, but clarifies that he would kill to protect this young girl.
How many of us would say the same? I know that I would take on anything in defense of my children. Mental has become one of my favorite shows to watch. The show balances the sometimes controversial storylines with compassion and tact. I think they did a great job with last night’s episode and look forward to more great shows.
What TV shows do you enjoy watching?