- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
The Big Bang Theory's Sheldon Cooper's personality and Asperger syndrome
For parents and people that know a child or an adult with Asperger's or are on the autism spectrum, there are elements of Sheldon Cooper that remind them of those people. My son is on the autism spectrum and I see a lot of Sheldon's actions in those of my son.
The creators of the show have gone on record saying that they never intended for the character to be thought of as having Aspergers at all. They have stated that they just thought of his actions as "Sheldony". I'm sure that if they had been aware of how an individual with Aspergers or who is on the Autism spectrum acted before they began writing the character, that the comment would have been different.
Without a doubt Sheldon displays difficulties with social interactions. He's completely unaware of the fact that what he says or does in relation to others aren't exactly how one should be with others. He doesn't understand that some things shouldn't be said or that sometimes certain things should be said (such as the time Amy told him that she was going to have a paper published and he dismissed it completely and went to how he had 100 twitter followers). He is perfectly able to carry on a conversation, as long as it's about something that he wants to talk about and is important to him. Once it's done, he really doesn't care what the other person has to say, so long as what he wanted to talk about was heard. He's unable to demonstrate empathy and doesn't know what to do when people need comforting (the best he can do is gently pat the person awkwardly on the shoulder saying "there there"). Difficulties with social interactions are a factor in the disorder. This in and of itself isn't enough to consider someone to have Asperger's, but he shows other characteristics.
If Sheldon isn't the poster boy for OCD behaviour then I don't know who is. Repetitive interests and behavious are a part of Asperger's as is the preference to an inflexible routine. Saturday is laundry night...end of story. Very rarely will this ever change, unless as seen in one episode, he had to buy a different fabric softener so he did his laundry the day before in case he had to do his laundry again if the new softener wasn't good enough. He needs to have the same barber cut his hair and went to great lengths to wait for a man in a coma to do his hair. He absolutely has to knock three times and say the person's name after each knock or else sommthing is not right. He usually does this to Penny; even if she opens the door after the second knock, he will knock a third time and say her name because it's the norm for him to do so. He has to sit in the same spot on the couch and he has clothes picked out for everyday of the week. He even has food on specific days of the week; Penny made french toast one day and to him it was oatmeal day. Even if he thought that the toast smelled great, he threw it out to have oatmeal.
Tying in with the lack of social skills are his language skills. Individuals with Asperger's have some speech patterns that co-incide with how Sheldon speaks. Among some of the peculiarities of the syndrome, he can speak for a long time about topics that no one cares about and doesn't see that the people around him are not engaged in what he has to say. Sometimes Sheldon will talk and will never make a point. There have been instances where Leonard has asked him to expand on what he said and get to the point and Sheldon simply says that he didn't have a point and was just sharing an interesting fact.
Like Sheldon's mother has stated in the past "he's not crazy, I've had him tested." he isn't crazy. Asperger's syndrome and autism in general does not make someone "crazy". They are the same as everyone else but just have problems with what we have come to call "normal" interactions with other people. They are just as deserving and smart (a lot of times, smarter!) as the average person and don't deserve any negative critisism that they receive.