Autism on Screen- Scrubs

Greetings from lock-down dear Earthlings! 🙂

As I try to fill my hours in these dark days, like many people, I’ve been spending more time working my way through my TV/film backlog. In the midst of this, I’ve come across an old episode of the acclaimed medical comedy Scrubs (Season 4 Episode 18) which featured an autistic child.

Binge Watchin' TV Review: Scrubs

In this episode, Dr. Cox’s highly competitive childhood friend Ron comes to town with his son and arranges a play date. During the course of this play date, Dr Cox is dismayed to find that Ron’s son Nathan is far superior in his block building skills to his son Jack. Taking this, Nathan’s lack of eye contact and avoidance of touch/hugs into account, Dr. Cox realizes that Nathan is likely autistic.


While this episode is not the most accurate portrayal of autism with such stereotyped traits (the character’s on screen appearance is only fleeting so it would have been difficult to show a true representation), I wanted to talk about the episode nonetheless for the way that Dr. Cox handled the situation.

The episode did not focus in on the medical drama or exaggerated autistic traits, but kept it simple yet effective in the sensitive delivery of the suspected diagnosis from one friend to another. There was also a greater focus on the fact that early diagnosis is a good thing to give autists the best chance to thrive- a refreshing change as so often media portrayals stick with the negatives.

Here’s a clip from this poignant scene:


In reality, John C. McGinley (who plays Dr. Cox) is father to a child with Down Syndrome and is an active ambassador for this cause, playing an integral part in the Special Olympics “R-word: Spread The Word, To End The Word” campaign in recent years. As such, it appears that he drew from his own experiences of special needs in his delivery here which really added to the authenticity and tenderness of this moment of true friendship.

Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings!

Stay safe!


2 thoughts on “Autism on Screen- Scrubs

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  1. I found out about my autism about seven months back and I came to your page through a Google search (“autism sensitive skin”), but was extremely positively surprised to see a callback to this great show. I had forgotten that autism was a topic at all and when I saw this post, the memories came rushing back. I’m personally in an awful spot currently, so my flood gates are constantly open, but rest assured, just the “not gonna happen” and the way his friend looks away and back brought a pang to my heart strings. I did not receive such attention as a kid and my father still doesn’t believe me – I understand better why I always looked up to the role of Dr. Cox, who is oh so accurately portrayed.
    Thank you for this post, and for the vastly informative post on sensory issues which answered a ton of my questions! You have a new reader in me and I hope lockdown is going okay for you!


  2. Just being rewatching Scrubs again (fouth time!) and I suspect Elliot has been portaied with some asperger traits. Being married to an asperger woman I learnt how to recognize them

    Liked by 1 person

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