GENERAL HOSPITAL

Wally Kurth Opens Up About GH’s Autism Storyline

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This week on GENERAL HOSPITAL, Ned will adopt his stepson, Leo, making Olivia’s little boy an official member of the Quartermaine family. The timing of the adoption coincides with April being Autism Awareness Month; as viewers will recall, Leo was diagnosed with being on the autism spectrum late last year. For Ned’s portrayer, Wally Kurth, the ongoing GH storyline with Leo’s autism holds a special meaning as his own son, 17-year-old Brogan, is autistic.

“I think they’ve done a really great job,” Kurth told TV Insider, adding that executive producer Frank Valentini personally reached out to him to share that the soap planned to have Leo be autistic. “The writers knew about [Brogan and] Frank wanted to make sure how I felt about it. He wanted me to know that it was somewhat from my own personal experience that they were inspired to tell this story.”

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to children on the autism spectrum, and Kurth commends the soap for doing their research. “The writers… have done a good job at looking at Leos past, present, and future and designed, I think, a very accurate and truthful telling of a child who’s having to deal with [autism],” the Emmy nominee shared.

GH Lois Leo Ned
As the father of an autistic child, Kurth said he is “very pleased” with how GH has written Leo’s autism in the storyline.ABC/Christopher Willard

Kurth pointed to one episode in particular — the one where Leo disappeared from Ava’s art gallery and was found at the waterfront — that resonated with him specifically as a parent of an autistic child. It is common for children with autism to wander away from caregivers or secure locations, a behavior that is called elopement. “I’ve always felt that was so accurate,” the actor noted. “When Brogan was younger, he could just disappear. We were riding our bikes along the beach one day and he just wasn’t there.”

Thankfully, Kurth quickly found his son near the ocean that day, just as Leo was found at the waterfront pier after wandering off. “I didn’t talk to the writers about Brogan’s water fascination, but I believe that water attraction is common,” Kurth explained. “I know when I talk to other parents who have autistic children that their children do like the water. He just naturally has this affinity for water. It’s amazing. He still swims in the ocean every day. Every day, I get to take him to the beach. It’s what I consider one of the gifts of autism.”

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