TV Series Featuring Characters or Performers With Disabilities

A big part of raising awareness and acceptance for people with disabilities is making their stories part of popular culture. Check out our list of TV series that have had regularly featured characters or performers with special needs. Just be sure to check out reviews before watching because they aren't all kid-friendly.

Alphas

Show: Alphas
Network: SyFy
On the Air: 2011-2012
Character of Interest: Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright), a young man with autism whose abilities as a "human antenna" make him valuable to a crime-fighting team of people with extraordinary abilities.

The Big Bang Theory

Show: The Big Bang Theory
Network: CBS
On the Air: 2007-2019
Character of Interest: Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), a theoretical physicist and all-around quirky guy who talks about and displays many symptoms of Asperger syndrome.

Bones

Show: Bones
Network: FOX
On the Air: 2005-2017
Character of Interest: Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan (Emily Deschanel), a forensic anthropologist who looks to a lot of viewers like a person with Asperger syndrome.

Breaking Bad

Show: Breaking Bad
Network: AMC
On the Air: 2008-2013
Character of Interest: Walter White, Jr. (RJ Mitte), son of the chemistry teacher turned meth maker, who, like the actor who plays him, has ​cerebral palsy.​

The Bridge

Show: The Bridge
Network: FX
On the Air: 2013-2014
Character of Interest: Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger), a detective in the El Paso police department with Asperger syndrome.

Covert Affairs

Show: Covert Affairs
Network: USA
On the Air: 2010-2014
Character of Interest: Auggie Anderson (Christopher Gorham), a blind  CIA analyst who's a tech whiz, a sidekick for newbie agent Annie Walker played by Piper Perabo, and also a chick magnet.

Glee

Show: Glee
Network: FOX
On the Air: 2009-2015
Characters of Interest: Artie Abrams (Kevin McHale), a glee-club member who uses a wheelchair; Becky Jackson (Lauren Potter), a cheerleader with Down syndrome.

Grey's Anatomy

Show: Grey's Anatomy
Network: ABC
On the Air: 2005-Present
Character of Interest: Dr. Virginia Dixon (Mary McDonnell), a cardiac surgeon with Asperger syndrome who appeared in several episodes of the series' sixth season.

King and Maxwell

Show: King and Maxwell
Network: TNT
On the Air: 2013
Character of Interest: Edgar Roy (Ryan Hurst) is often described as "a high-functioning autistic savant," specializing in patterns and numerical sequences.

Legit

Show: Legit
Network: FX
On the Air: 2013-2014
Character of Interest: Billy Nugent (DJ Qualls), a man with severe muscular dystrophy sprung from a nursing home by a trying-to-do-good friend.

Life Goes On

Show: Life Goes On
Network: ABC
On the Air: 1989-1993
Character of Interest: Corky Thatcher (Chris Burke) is a high-school student with has Down syndrome just like the actor who plays him, and is a member of the family the series focused on.

The Middle

Show: The Middle
Network: ABC
On the Air: 2009-2018
Character of Interest: Brick (Atticus Shaffer), youngest child of the Heck family, a quirky little fellow whose odd ways and habit of repeating things in a whisper has some viewers wondering if he's on the autism spectrum. Whether the character is or not, the show remains of special-needs interest for Shaffer, who has osteogenesis imperfecta (OI).

Modern Family

Show: Modern Family
Network: ABC
On the Air: 2009-
Actor of Interest: Sarah Hyland, who plays Haley Dunphy, revealed in May 2012 that she was diagnosed with kidney dysplasia at age 9 and received a kidney transplant from her father in April 2012, at age 21.

Parenthood

Show: Parenthood
Network: NBC
On the Air: 2010- 2015
Character of Interest: Max Braverman (Max Burkholder), a member of the youngest generation of the sprawling Braverman clan and, as of the show's first episode, a child diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.

The Secret Life of the American Teenager

Show: The Secret Life of the American Teenager
Network: ABC Family
On the Air: 2008-2013
Special-Needs Connection: Tom Bowman (Luke Zimmerman), a young man with Down syndrome, much like the actor who plays him. Unlike some of the show's more sex-obsessed characters, Tom is much more level-headed.

St. Elsewhere

Show: St. Elsewhere
Network: NBC
On the Air: 1982-1988
Special-Needs Connection: Tommy Westphall (Chad Allen), the autistic son of hospital honcho Dr. Donald Westphall, who in the show's last episode is apparently revealed to have dreamed up the entire series.

Switched at Birth

Show: Switched at Birth
Network: ABC Family
On the Air: 2011- 2017
Character of Interest: Daphne Vasquez (Katie Leclerc), a hearing-impaired teenager who finds out she went home with the wrong family as an infant. The show features other hearing-impaired characters and did one episode entirely in American Sign Language (ASL).

The West Wing

Show: The West Wing
Network: NBC
On the Air: 1999-2006
Character of Interest: Joey Lucas (Marlee Matlin), a pollster who, much like the actor who plays her, is deaf. But Joey's deafness was never the total sum of her complex character.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Autism Spectrum Disorder Fact Sheet. Updated March 13, 2020.

  2. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Asperger Syndrome Information Page. Updated March 27, 2017.

  3. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Cerebral Palsy. Updated December 1, 2016.

  4. National Eye Institute. Blindness Data and Statistics. Updated July 17, 2019.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts about Down Syndrome. Updated December 5, 2019.

  6. Child Health and Human Development. Muscular Dystrophy. December 1, 2016.

  7. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Osteogenesis Imperfecta Overview.

  8. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Kidney Dysplasia. Updated July 2015.


  9. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. American Sign Language. Updated May 8, 2019.

  10. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Hearing, Ear Infections, and Deafness.