Top TV Shows & Movies Featuring Characters with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Top TV Shows & Movies Featuring Characters with Autism Spectrum Disorder

As more and more children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, also on the rise is the portrayal of characters in film and television with ASD. The CDC estimates that one in 59 children are being diagnosed with ASD every year. With this change in family statistics comes the need to depict these families and their experiences in the entertainment industry as a mirror to real life.

Despite the growing representation of characters with ASD, there has been much criticism of Hollywood due to the casting of neurotypical actors and the lack of representation of actors with ASD. Those criticisms aside, there are TV shows, films and special presentations all sharing the same ultimate goal: “improve understanding and spread empathy for both those with ASD and the caregivers and family members who deal with the disorder.”

Here is a list of television shows, special presentations and films that are available to stream online (or will be in the near future), slowly teaching the world about people with ASD and their families one streaming video at a time:

  1. “Temple Grandin: The Autistic Brain” is a special presentation available for viewing on YouTube that took place at the 2013 Chicago Humanities Festival. This hour long video is a talk by Temple Grandin, one of the world’s biggest advocates for people with ASD, to inspire the world to celebrate the strengths of people with ASD as opposed to focusing on their weaknesses.

  1. If you are especially inspired by “Temple Grandin: The Autistic Brain,” additionally available to watch is the incredible HBO original film Temple Grandin, featuring an award-winning performance by Claire Danes. This film follows the real life story of Temple Grandin’s early diagnosis and her extraordinary journey.” Temple Grandin is available to watch on HBO, Amazon, YouTube, amongst many other streaming services.

  1. Netflix’s Atypical was one of the most popular TV shows on Netflix in 2017. Atypical is a heartwarming series featuring an 18 year-old young man who is on the autism spectrum and his search for love in the tumultuous atmosphere of high school. Atypical is only available to stream on Netflix and was renewed for a second season just a month after its 2017 release.

  1. ABC’s The Good Doctor is based on a South Korean series and centers around a young surgeon who has ASD and savant syndrome who is recruited to work at a prestigious hospital. The Good Doctor is available to stream on ABC, Hulu, Amazon amongst many other streaming options.

  1. NBC’s Parenthood Running from 2010 to 2015 on NBC, Parenthood was one of the first depictions on mainstream television of a family experiencing the diagnosis, treatment and navigating the everyday life of a family member with autism. Parenthood is available to stream on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and many more sites.

  1. As of July 2018, Israel’s award-winning TV series On the Spectrum is not currently available to stream online, but has garnered many awards and accolades including being the only non-English speaking TV series to be screened at the Tribeca Film Festival.

  1. Rounding out our list of films and TV series is a documentary available to view on Amazon. Autism in Love follows 4 adults with ASD as they navigate the world of dating, love and relationships. Autism in Love was also an official selection of the Tribeca Film Festival.

With every year that goes by, while the prevalence and understanding of ASD continues to grow, more and more feature films, documentaries, special presentations and TV shows will continue to shed light on individuals with ASD, their families, their communities and their caregivers.

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