Season three of “Atypical” just debuted on Netflix on Nov. 1, 2019. It looks at Sam Gardener (Keir Gilchrist), a 19-year-old on the autism spectrum. In seasons one and two, the show depicted his navigation through high school and in season three his journey as a freshman in college. Among other topics discussed in the show, it looks at Sam maintaining a relationship and other aspects of his journey on the autism spectrum.
Note: Spoilers ahead.
I love how I could relate in several ways to Sam’s character. Growing up with autism, I also started college at 19 and it was a dream come true. After years during my adolescence of being told by experts that I would be lucky to graduate from high school one day, I truly saw getting into college as a milestone that I could do anything I wanted in this world.
Here’s three things I also loved about season 3 of “Atypical”:
1. The fact they brought up reasonable accommodations and disclosure.
As a life coach and mentor to those with disabilities, disclosure is often a frequent topic that comes up when it comes to receiving accommodations on a college campus. For Sam, accommodations are brought up several times, including after having challenges with note-taking in one of his classes. While Sam went against receiving accommodations, it brings up the personal choice each individual has to decide for themselves.
When I was in college, I disclosed because of needing the reasonable accommodation of extended time on tests and a private room for all tests because of my ability to be distracted easily. But I also disclosed for needing a recorder for all my classes because of having dysgraphia (a handwriting disorder).
It also brings up the perspective of the parent. When Sam decides to skip his first disability support specialist meeting and his parents notice his challenges, his mom takes the reins and is reminded by Sam’s college that “he needs to come reschedule the meeting himself.” When I was a freshman, it was such a weird feeling at first to need to self-advocate for myself, but it was an important step for me toward becoming an independent adult.
2. The mention of a statistic that “four out of five students on the spectrum don’t graduate from college within 5 years.”
I appreciated the honesty of this statistic on this show. It shows that, not only is it important for schools to be ready to include people with autism at their colleges, but that some people on the spectrum may need additional time to finish college. When I was starting off in college, I took only four classes to “get my feet wet” as I dealt with that transition. Looking back now, I wish I spent additional time in college so I could take less classes to avoid burnout and focus more on internship and job opportunities.
3. The continued role of people on the autism spectrum in the show.
In a review I wrote of season one of the show and looking at things I’d like to see them do for season two, I’m happy to say that they did indeed hire a full-time consultant who’s on the autism spectrum and have hired multiple actors who have autism as well (one of our autism scholarship winners, Tal Anderson, a 22-year-old woman with autism, had a role on season three). While some statistics indicate that only about 1% of disabled actors play disabled characters on television, this representation continues to be excellent to see.
I truly believe that “Atypical” is the best 30-minute show on Netflix right now and continue to recommend this show without reservations. I hope I can one day be able to join this show as a former actor and/or current autism consultant.
This guest post is by Dr. Kerry Magro Ed.D., a professional speaker, best-selling author and autism entertainment consultant who is on the autism spectrum. A version of this blog appeared on Kerrymagro.com here. Follow Kerry’s journey on Facebook here.