Does Sheldon Cooper Have Autism?

“Knock! Knock! Knock! Penny? Knock! Knock! Knock! Penny? Knock! Knock! Knock! Penny?” All you fans out there who watch our beloved Shelly on the CBS sit-com Big Bang Theory should know this line by heart. But why is this a reoccurring event in Sheldon’s life? He does have an IQ of 187 and a photographic memory. But seriously why does he have to have HIS spot? And what’s up with all the kooky mannerisms and rituals and rules? Well here’s one theory: Sheldon Cooper has a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome.

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This week our neurochemistry class explored the possible causes of autism, which included heavy metal intake, internal methylation, and other external factors such as environment in the womb and other wise unspecified causes. Researchers don’t know what is causing this supposed spike of autism disorders that we are seeing in the younger generations. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 9 in 1000 children are diagnosed with autism in the US. For those of you who don’t know, autism is an overused term to describe a spectrum of autistic-like illnesses under the term autism spectrum disorder. There are varying degrees of severity for autism and five categories have been created for the sake of diagnosis: autistic disorder (classic autism), Asperger’s disorder (Asperger syndrome), pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), Rett’s disorder (Rett syndrome), and childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD). Each of these disorders has its own set of symptoms. However each of the disorders include sosme sort of social disability as a symptom in which individuals demonstrate social awkwardness and abnormal social behaviors.

The reason I bring up the question about Sheldon Cooper is that he displays many of the symptoms that individuals with Asperger syndrome appear to exhibit. Unlike children with classic autism (who tend to show signs of intellectual disability), people with Asperger’s tend to have a normal or higher than normal cognitive ability. Other symptoms or tendencies of individuals with Asperger’s include obsessive or repetitive routines and rituals, motor-skill problems, such as clumsy or uncoordinated movements and delays in motor skills, social-skill problems, especially related to communicating with others, sensitivity to sensory information, such as light, sound, texture, and taste. Sheldon doesn’t demonstrate all of these severely however his serious obsessive compulsive tendencies such as sitting in HIS spot on the couch or his strict weekly schedule of events such as what he eats on each day of the week or having a different set of pajamas for each night of the week do demonstrate tendencies of a person with Asperger’s. We can also note that Sheldon struggles to pick up sarcasm in conversation and most non-verbal cues. And most importantly Sheldon has a way-above-average intelligence which is a common characteristic of individuals with Asperger’s. His capacity to hold information such as vocabulary and solve mathematical problems that a computer struggles to do, as well as his photographic memory all point to Asperger’s. It’s also important to note that Sheldon Cooper is actually a successful theoretical physicist as well. This means that many of these individuals with milder forms of autism are able to maintain jobs and live their lives as normally as possible.

It’s important that the media is incorporating characters with syndromes such as autism. It brings awareness of its prevalence in our society today.


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9 Responses

  1. kim

    Nice sum up on Sheldon and autism (or asperger’s) when I started watching this show I was so excited to see a character who clearly has this. He often says he has trouble with non-verbal cues and social situations( like the time Penny was hiding from the building manager and he asked her what social situation that was and how to proceed). But aside from these obvious things he also displays subtler aspects of the autism spectrum, like his aversion to noise -whistling and percussive instruments, the high pitched sound of Penny’s singing and her laughter. He also has said that he was sick a lot of the time as a child, and autistic children seem to be prone to infections and illnesses.


      I love Sheldon, my son was diagnosed with High Functioning autism, he has a photographic memory, is brilliant at math , reading and spelling & wants to be a scientist…. (6yrs old) and “knock, knock penny, knock knock penny” is a joke in our home.Thankfully he is mild and not as difficult as Sheldon is sometimes, but it makes us all smile knowing that our little guy will make it in the big world, shows like BIG BANG put peoples “quirkiness” in perspective.

  2. crystal Lynn

    My daughter has autism and I see tremendous hope for her in the future!
    I also see the similarities with social experiences, rituals, no empathy towards others, blank expressions on the face until they find something soooooooo funny. My daughter is hello kitty and princessed out. Much like Sheldon’s space and comic book stuff. I think if more parents could see and feel how I do about this show and mainly Sheldon having autism and displaying the quirkiness as adults. We all could maybe breathe a little easier to the small hope we can have that our kids with autism can be independent adults with successful careers! Thanks to the creators and the actors that make this show so great! My it succeed for years and years to come! <3

  3. Stacy

    I would like to make clear that just because an individual has autism no matter what the severity that doesn’t mean that their IQ is lower then that of a child or adult with aspergers or “higher functioning autism.” IQ and the symptoms are totally seperate I really wish people would understand this. I have 4 children my 6 year old twins have moderate to severe autism and they are very smart. If a person has a hearing impaiment do you assume that they are slower or intellectually impaired? No. If a person has an issue with spoken communication or sessory prossessing it’s no different. And if a person with aspergers cannot or has a hard time with social Q’s that is no different then a person with full on autism it’s not a tick or a cork when it’s aspergers and a full on mental issue when it’s autism…it’s the same. Hence spectrum disorder. Thought I’d put that out there as an adult with a spectum disorder.

  4. Amanda

    Well put Stacy my son has moderate classic autism and his teacher told me that his IQ is probably higher than ours and once he starts speaking we will really we it which I’m proud to say he starting to talk and uses sign language about 70% of the time fluently. He is 4 was dx when 3 and has come a long way he likes trains, boats, cars, and any type of electronic Device lol. The symptoms mask intelligence but its definitely there we just got to start removing the brick wall and brick by brick he will get better ( autism isn’t a sickness but its the only way I can put it) and his intelligence is average he had no MR. But he has empathy but we teach it to him he plays jokes he sometimes gets facial cues like when he got into the cookies I frowned at him and he started putting them back autism is mysterious and untill you have lived with or worked with it and see it. You shouldn’t open your mouth and spread false info about the disorder just thought I would fill the author and the world in about it autistic. Kids are NOT RETARDED OR SLOW thier brains are just wired differently than ours

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  7. Ike Gotto

    The syndrome is named after the Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger who, in 1944, studied and described children in his practice who lacked nonverbal communication skills, demonstrated limited empathy with their peers, and were physically clumsy.^”:.


  8. Lisa

    Hi guys
    Great to c a bunch who all get it. My 4yo has just been diagnosed as high function or aspergers and he is so much like Sheldon it makes us giggle too. A small FYI Sheldon has an idenic memory not a photographic memory. My son also has a seat that he prefers and gets a lot of anxiety about change as well. I think these guys did well in their research for a lot of it and it’s lovely to know that he wasn’t even supposed to b the star and now is and with the huge bucks they r all getting per ep obviously we’re not the only fans!

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