In Session with “Atypical”

For the final Autism Awareness Month session, Dr. Sam & Dr. Fran discuss Sam and his family in Netflix’s Atypical

This week psychologist, Dr. Lo, joins the session as we review Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnostic criteria. We discuss Sam’s social communication skills, interactions and relationships.  For example, would we recommend compiling a pros and cons list to determine if Sam should date Paige? We also talk about his family, the support they provide, and other considerations for family members of individuals on the Autism Spectrum.  

We examine which aspects of Sam’s character more accurately portray autism and which are more related to “Hollywood magic.” Speaking of “Hollywood magic,” we break down the portrayal of Sam’s therapy and the therapeutic relationship between Sam and his therapist, Julia. Do all therapists slow dance with their teenage patients in a parking garage? Tune in to find out! 

If you are feeling stressed, you could recite the four species of Antarctic penguins  you could also listen to this week’s session!

Glossary of Terms

Pragmatic language – aspects of social communication, including reciprocity and social cues

Neurotypical term used to describe individuals without autism or other developmental diagnoses

Stimming short-hand for “self-stimulatory behaviors”; repetitive motor movements (e.g., hand-flapping, rocking, spinning, or repetition of words and phrases)

Replacement behavior – substitute behavior that is often easier and seen as more “socially appropriate” used to replace unwanted behaviors

Adapted Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – form of CBT that also incorporates aspects of social communication, self-regulation strategies, perspective-taking training, and behavior-analytic techniques to address common challenges for individuals with autism spectrum disorder

Perspective-Taking – the ability to consider how someone else might be feeling in a situation

Self-disclosure – when a therapist shares something personal about themselves in therapy


We loved having Dr. Lo on for this episode to share her expertise on autism spectrum disorder (ASD)!  Check out these resources to learn more about:

Dr. Lo also shared some information about how cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be adapted for individuals with ASD.  Learn more here.

Through the lens of Sam’s character in Atypical, we discussed some of the experiences of teenagers and young adults with ASD.

We also debunk the myth that people with ASD can’t develop and/or don’t have an interest in romantic relationships. Read more here.

We also highly recommend checking out these additional resources for individuals with autism, along with their families. They even have some specific resources for siblings!

Check out this clip to meet the 8 new cast members in Season 2 of Atypical, all of whom are on the autism spectrum.