Netflix’s Atypical – Exploring autism spectrum disorder


Atypical is a Netflix original series that explores autism spectrum disorder.

‘Atypical’ is a coming of-age fiction, comedy-drama series that’s told through the protagonist autistic 18-year-old teenager Sam Gardner (Keir Gilchrist). It begins when Sam announces to his family at breakfast that he wants to start dating.

The story then unfolds in a funny, eccentric and quirky manner as Sam navigates the complexities of ‘dealing’ with others in relation to himself as he tries at dating. Sam’s adventures continously create new challenges in the family  as well as bring up old wounds and secrets.

This is a show loaded with humor and creativity. It explores  various sub-themes on family dynamics, marriage,teenage dating,friendship, relationship dynamics, therapy,  amongst other themes all anchored on the main theme of Autism spectrum disorder.

Is autism spectrum disorder a cause of concern in Africa?

Autism spectrum disorder(ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication, behavior and interaction with others, sometimes leading to social rejection.  Autism spectrum disorder is mostly perceived and documented to occur only in the well-resourced countries with high technological development.

Though the global prevalence of autism is reported to be increasing and major advances in understanding the genetic and developmental aspects of autism have been done, many aspects of the condition are still poorly understood.  There remains a major gap in what is known about the global burden of autism spectrum disorder, in particular, little is known about this disorder in Africa.

Culture, stigma, less access to appropriate developmental support services, the belief that developmental disabilities are not life-threatening resulting in limited funding or few researchers compared to infectious diseases that are associated with mortality amongst other challenges.

This makes it difficult to bring awareness to autism spectrum disorder in Africa. There are however people working hard in this field to bring more awareness as well as continued research around this condition. An ASD Network of Africa was established.

The aims are to facilitate building capacity and the dissemination of autism spectrum disorder management recommendations within a global health framework. The network is open to all (including diaspora communities interested). 

Ongoing lessons on Autism

Watching Atypical increased my own knowledge about autism spectrum disorder.

The series is however criticised for stereotyping as well as mis-representing in some aspects of autism spectrum disorder according to others.

The series has been generally well received.  We  recommend  you give it a try!