In the show’s pilot episode we are introduced to Dr. Sheldon Cooper, a theoretical physicist. After his roommate Leonard invites new neighbor Penny to have lunch in the apartment Sheldon and Leonard share together, we get the first glimpse of autism characteristics in Sheldon. Penny sits in Sheldon’s spot on the couch, which Sheldon points out and states his case as to why Penny cannot sit there. Leonard tells Sheldon to pick another place to sit. Sheldon reluctantly agrees, and–after walking around the room a while–sits down on the other end of the couch, rather uncomfortably.
Many individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) do not initially react well to change, or to having their routine interrupted. In this example, Sheldon is visibly uncomfortable but remains pretty well mannered. Some individuals will not act well mannered in these situations. Individuals with ASD may display anger, or engage in disruptive or aggressive behavior in result to having their routine altered or having something not go according to their plan. This characteristic of ASD can be seen in many episodes throughout the show, and future posts will discuss this characteristic in greater detail.
We also begin to see that Sheldon has trouble with social conversations, specifically cues on when to go along with what Leonard tells Penny instead of divulging the truth. Better examples of this characteristic are found in later episodes and will be addressed as we come to them.
The pilot episode does not give us a full picture of ASD in Sheldon. We just get some little hints at the disorder. Stay tuned to future episodes where we will discuss many more–and better–examples of ASD in the life of Dr. Sheldon Cooper.