Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper: Asperger’s Syndrome’s Poster boy?

Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is a form of Autism that is in the mild end of the autism spectrum. Similar to other forms of autism, AS is characterized by deficits in social communication, social interaction and imagination, but usually have average or above average IQ levels. People with AS always think literally, have little to no clue about facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures. They find other people difficult to ‘read’ (Theory of Mind), hence may view others’ actions as confusing and also fail to behave in socially appropriate ways. Most conversations with them are one-sided, with them leading and rarely taking your opinions. Finally, they stick to their routines and have a special interest that they may excell on.

(CLICK HERE FOR MORE VIDEOS SHOWING SHELDON HAS ASPERGER’S)

Anyone who is familiar with the show ‘Big Bang Theory’ will know that all of the characteristics mentioned above describe Dr. Sheldon Cooper, played by Jim Parsons (pictured). In the show, Sheldon is a top physicist who works in a university and hangs out with his friends Leonard (who is also his roommate), Raj and Howard. Being a physicist is an ideal job for people with AS due to the literality of the subject (as supposed to social sciences). Most of Physics are underpinned by mathematical equations which are perfect for AS-affected individuals, as supposed to, say Sociology or Psychology which are founded on researching human-beings in ways that Sheldon will find repulsive.

Sheldon also does not understand sarcasm (see video below). To be able to get sarcasm requires abstract thinking, knowledge of varying tones of voice and a firm grasp of the social situation one person is in. Sheldon does not possess any of these- Leonard actually ended up putting a ‘sarcasm sign’ for him to understand. As seen in the video clip below, Sheldon struggles to understand the consequences of his actions and also Penny’s and Leonard’s emotions.

Also, he is incapable of ‘faking’ his emotions in order to avoid hurting other people’s feelings. In the video below, Sheldon does not agree that Raj is getting featured in Time Magazine’s 30 under 30 issue. As a result, he insulted Raj. His friends then decided to invite Raj to dinner. Notice how Sheldon asks how he can fake his happiness. Children who have AS are often given social stories which teaches them how to behave appropriately in different social situations.

Sheldon also voices his dislike in a change in his routines. The first video below shows Sheldon explaining why he sits in a specific spot in the couch and what difference it made when he tried to sit on a different space. In the second video, the group decided to eat Thai food instead of pizza, which Sheldon is used to. He explained how he likes consistency and in order to accept ‘anything can happen thursday’, he persuades the others to go to the comic book store. Getting others to agree to what they want is a common tactic employed by people with AS.

Although there was no mention that Sheldon was diagnosed with Aspergers’ Syndrome and even Sheldon reasoned that ‘his mother had him tested’, all signs point to AS. We should note however, that even though Sheldon may have AS, he is managing to live significantly comfortably. He has picked a profession that suits his condition and most importantly, allows him to excel. He has surrounded himself with people who not only tolerates him, but teaches him how to behave in particularly difficult situations. His friends mostly agrees to what he likes, and even though they usually find being with him a challenge, they still see the positive side of him.

I believe that Sheldon’s situation in the Big Bang Theory shows us a good example of living with and being around people with Asperger’s Syndrome. It shows both the fun side and the difficult side of being with individuals with AS. Granted, not every episode shows the gang’s good side in terms of dealing with Sheldon, but never the less, it shows that people with AS can be brilliant and at the same time, a good friend to be with. Whether they purposely did it or not, I think the makers of the show is doing a good job.

For more info on Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and other ASDs, visit http://www.autism.org.uk

;)

More on Autism:

He flaps his hands and screams a lot but he doesn’t mean to annoy you

Optimum Outcomes for people with Autism

DSM 5 and its implications to ASD diagnosis

Diagnosing Autism: What you need to know

Vote for Miss Montana 2012, Alexis Wineman

What does Autism mean?

What is PDD-NOS?

Communication difficulties in Autism

Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper: Asperger’s Syndrome’s Poster Boy?

Still unsure if Sheldon has Asperger’s?

DSM-V and Autism

The Autistic Me: BBC Documentary

Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds of minds

Autism in the classroom:

Guide to parents of students with ASD on coping with the first day back to school

Common signs of Autism in the classroom

First day back to school: Top tips for parents of children with Autism

Practical tips to make your classroom Autism-Friendly

Inspiring People with Autism:

Dr. Temple Grandin

Jessica-Jane Applegate (British Paralympian)

Satoshi Tajiri (Pokemon creator)

Carly Fleischmann

More on Savants:

The Psychology of Savants: Memory Masters

Artists with Autism

The Einstein Effect: Is there a link between having Autism and being a genius?

 

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87 thoughts on “Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper: Asperger’s Syndrome’s Poster boy?”

  1. This is great, and I love your blog in general! Just stumbled upon it after doing a search for Aspergers, which a family member of mine has. Do you have a family/friend who struggles with this? I’m a new blogger…trying to figure out what my blog is going to develop into. I’m going to continue reading your other posts.. Love your feedback, if you have a min!

    1. Thank you for the comment ;) I know how differently AS manifests from individual to individual, I was only pointing out how Sheldon has all the characteristics of a person one would diagnose as having AS. Would you agree? Thanks again!

  2. I’m an Aspie, I was diagnosed at age 35.. I see a lot of myself in Sheldon, which is why I absolutely love his character and love the show. I have read posts on different sites on the subject of whether or not he has Asperger’s, there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus. I must say though, that quite a lot of his behaviors, including his rigig systematizing, awkwardness with social situations, hyperfixation on certain hobbies and interests, and hypersensitivity to some stimuli are all certainly consistent with Asperger’s Syndrome.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I guess the only reason why we still don’t know whether or not Sheldon has Aspergers is because the producers try their best not to answer this very question. In this way, it keeps people like you and me discussing it, whilst at the same time avoiding stereotyping people with AS.

  3. I do not agree with the comment about imagination. People on the autistic spectrum can be highly imaginative but it might not necessarily be in some of the way that neurotypical percieve imagination like lying or getting jokes.

    1. I also agree! With your comment. For instance when I was being tested I was asked if I would play imaginative games with school mates back in school and stuff, something that I did. We used to pretend umbrellas were rifles and stuff and pretent to be shooting at stuff. But if you ask me to write a book out of my imagination I would be worse than useless!

  4. I love this write up about Sheldon and AS! My son and I both have AS and while we don’t display every characteristic that Sheldon does (we both get sarcasm and I do read people very well), there is SO MUCH that is similar. It’s a joke in our house that I have my spot on the couch. My son and I also have routines. He needs *me* to wake him up for school in the mornings and we both MUST have a cup of coffee to start our day. Not to feel awake, but simply as part of our morning routine. Also, a lot of things that aspies lack can be taught. I taught my son how to communicate with non-aspies, I learned certain stims that weren’t quite so obviously noticeable to the public (I stim w/ my toes a lot, something people don’t see), etc. It’s just a matter of learning our language and working with us instead of forcing us to adapt to the commonly accepted and expected ways of functionality.

      1. I’m actually very good at reading people by their body language, tone, intonation, wording, choice of words etc and anticipating their reactions. When they speak I see behind what they say to the real reason why they are saying that which often leaves them feeling awkward when I jump right to the point and skip all the conversational foreplay. And I love sarcasm!

        The only sort of routine I have that annoys the hell out of me when it happens is when I get woken up earlier than the agreed time. For instance during summers in Greece I help my father with his peach fields and because of the heat we have to start really early so we usually have an agreed time that we are going to wake up and I set my own alarm. If they wake me up even a minute before my alarm goes off it just ruins my morning. Less if I wake up on my own earlier than when my alarm goes off. It feels as a waste of precious sleeping time.

        Very good article by the way! Have a look at mine if you have ever have time please. It’s about the producers choice to not state clearly whether Sheldon really has ASD.

  5. I searched sheldon cooper aspergers and found this blog. The reason I did this is I’ve just been diagnosed with aspergers and a lot of my close friends refer to me as sheldon for the person I am. Love this read and thank you

  6. I loved this article. My brother has aspergers so I can greatly relate to Sheldons character. I think it’s great to bring out awareness because people never really knew about aspergers, instead they would assume that my brother was arrogant or rude which ofcourse wasn’t intentional. I enjoy the positivity associated with his character. I can clearly remember my mum saying to my brother when he was young ‘you’re walking on thin ice!’ — he would look down at his feet.. Haha such a bright man who has accomplished so much I couldn’t be more proud!

    1. Thanks. I’m glad you liked my post. Has having a brother with Aspergers been a challenge for you whilst growing up? Apologies for asking this question. I’m in the process of collecting first-hand info about the experiences of siblings of people with ASD for a new article and would greatly appreciate your response.

  7. I have Aspergers Syndrome and I have been obsessed with all things that make use of the Binary Code since I was 3.

    Yes in simple terms that means I have been Obsessed with every kind of computer invented since I was 3.

    Due to Learning Difficulties and Disability It will take me a very long time to get my chosen Job.

    But Once I am 55 years of age, I will be a fully qualified Hardware Engineer with 7 years previous experience working at the job.

    But for now I am only 25 years of age.

  8. AS is stands for Aspergers Syndrome. It is neurobiological type disarray and it is found in each age group people like children, younger’s and adults. Aspergers Syndrome affects the basic life skill like communication, interaction with others and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. Aspergers is completely related to the autism spectrum on. Aspergers is well know pervasive developmental disorder and it is known to hamper or we can say that it hamper a person who are suffering from this syndrome form study, interaction with others, communication and frequently speaking. Generally it is characterized by communication problem with others difficulty in relating with other people, can’t avoid repetitive body movements hate changes in routine deep think about certain topics and strange play with. Many people are don’t know about the these type problem in earlier days, people usually emphasized more on health instead of wealth in their life, and like to live a healthy life. But nowadays people are not aware about their health and running behind money. `

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  9. I wish I was like Sheldon :p. When I was young I was like that, but now due to bullying at secondary school and lack of social experience since leaving my primary school (was a very small school and I was accepted by my friends) my condition got a lot worse and I have really low confidence now :(

  10. Does your blog have a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an
    e-mail. I’ve got some suggestions for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it grow over time.

  11. I knew Sheldon Cooper had Asperger’s as soon as I saw an episode of the show (which was only recently — but I’ve binged since then). Surprisingly, though, yours is one of the few posts that explains why in a convincing, reasoned way. Of course, his characteristics are exaggerated (he’s so socially unaware and naive he thinks the bed creaking noise from the couple upstairs is from them jumping on the bed), and his quick comedic wit would be highly unusual for an Aspie, or for anyone for that matter. But he’s still a very effective tool in raising awareness about Asperger’s through comedy. Either the writers know he’s an Aspie but are refusing to acknowledge it for some reason, or they unintentionally created an Aspie as one of the show’s characters. But either way, I’m grateful for Sheldon Cooper, and I’m glad we have people like you to educate the public. Great post! (FYI: I’ve been planning to do a post of my own on Sheldon — I hope you don’t mind.)

  12. I stumbled upon this because I’m doing a research paper on the misconceptions on Asperger’s. I wanted to see if I could find something that talks about Sheldon and whether or not he has it.

    Great article! Sadly, the producers and writers aren’t going to tell us whether or not he has Asperger’s or not (just read an article on it). They say since his mother never followed up in Houston when he was younger, we will never know, just like we may never know what Howard’s mom looks like, or what Penny’s last name is (although, I think they’re doing that the very last season of the series).

    I agree with what you said at the end. If he DOES have AS, BBT shows it in a funny way. It’s probably why he’s everyone’s favorite character. He’s awkward and funny, and probably the most relatable, even to me. I don’t have AS, but I can be socially awkward at times.

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