Lessons from “The Big Bang Theory”
To the delight of many students and fans, Texas Tech hosted a very special guest speaker back in March of this year. Mayim Bialik, who plays the role of Amy Farrah Fowler on “The Big Bang Theory,” came to encourage students to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or STEM and to tell about her adventures as a neuroscientist in real life and as an actor playing a neurobiologist on TV. She commented about the eccentricities of Sheldon Cooper’s character (actor, Jim Parson) and pointed out that what she loves about the show is that nobody has a label or a diagnosis, but everyone is loved and accepted for who they are.
Sheldon’s both amusing and frustrating peculiarities have become the topic of many blogs and discussions about Asperger’s Syndrome. Whether or not Sheldon truly has Asperger’s, one positive outcome of these sometimes controversial discussions is the awareness and attention that has been brought to the issue of Autism Spectrum Disorders.
In a recent episode – “The Itchy Brain Simulation” – we discover that Leonard failed to return a DVD that was rented in Sheldon’s name seven years prior. Sheldon agrees not to flip out which spurs a conversation with Leonard about how uncomfortable unresolved issues are for him… much like an itch in his brain that he can’t scratch. Sheldon agrees to not bug Leonard about the DVD if he will wear an itchy wool sweater until the matter is resolved. Though comedy and mishaps ensue and the plan is actually quite “diabolical” according to Amy Farrah Fowler, this instance of Leonard putting himself in Sheldon’s shoes – er, sweater – might be enlightening to him (and to us) in the end. This episode begs the question “What does it feel like to be in the mind of someone with Asperger’s?” And what does this syndrome entail?
During Disability Awareness Week here at Texas Tech, Dr. Wesley H. Dotson, an Assistant Professor in the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research, shared with us a description of autism, characteristics of college students with autism, and tips for working with these students. He described Project CASE (Connections for Academic Success and Employment) and its focus on self-advocacy skills, problem solving, degree completion, employment. You can read more about Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorders in college students on his power point, located on our website under Faculty Resources, “Working with Students with Autism.”
If you have additional questions, or would like to ask about a specific situation, please feel free to email Dr. Dotson.