Episode five of the show focuses mainly on Sheldon’s roommate Leonard. However, we do see a couple of examples of how routines can play a major role in the life of a person with autism.
The opening scene shows Sheldon and his friends eating at a new restaurant. Sheldon has difficulty choosing something to eat because he doesn’t eat there. He feels uncomfortable because it is not usual Tuesday hamburger at Big Boy; it is outside his normal routine. Later in the episode Sheldon asks his neighbor Penny to help him decode a signal from his roommate. After explaining what the signal means (i.e. Leonard has a girl in his room), Penny starts to leave. Sheldon interjects “wait! I don’t know what the protocol is here. Do I stay? Do I leave? Do I wait to greet them with a beverage?”
The disruption of routines can be challenging for many individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Some react with confusion and annoyance, whether it be visible or concealed. Others can lash out with violent behavior tantrums or meltdowns. Preparing individuals with autism for change in routine is a key to success. Many teachers prepare their students with visual schedules or verbal prompts in advance of change in hopes of avoiding confusion and inappropriate behaviors. Scripting is also a technique used to teach individuals how to deal change. The idea with scripting is to give the individual enough scripts to know what to do in different situations, even if the preferred activity or schedule is disrupted. Neither of these approaches are failproof. Everyone is different. Parents, educators and other professionals must use their knowledge and experience with the individual to know what interventions are most likely to have success.