From the pilot episode onward we are reminded that Sheldon has a spot on the couch where no one else is allowed to sit. He has shown visible annoyance, frustration, and anger when someone is in his spot or when other circumstances prevent him from sitting in his spot. Sheldon reaches what might be considered a breaking point when he finds out his seat cushion has been stained by paintballs. Even after dry cleaning the cushion, he remained unsatisfied. Like Sheldon, many individuals with ASD find disruptions to routines or favorite items to be challenging.
For some, changes in routine or disruptions to preferred items can cause meltdowns. Providing individuals with ASD with advance notice of changes to environment, tasks, personal items, and/or nutrition can help decrease the likelihood of problem behaviors when something does change. This can be accomplished through visual schedules, verbal prompts and reminders, or sticky notes. However, not every change can be planned in advance. When unexpected events arise, it is important to know the individual and what may alleviate or exacerbate the meltdown or problem behavior(s). Since each individual has different needs, it is not possible to give a list of interventions that may alleviate or exacerbate meltdowns or problem behaviors, but stay tuned to the blog for future posts on these subjects.
In one episode, Sheldon loses Howard’s trust and friendship after revealing information that caused Howard to not get security clearance for a new work project. Sheldon offers his couch cushion to Howard; symbolically giving away his spot on the couch. However, this does not last long as Sheldon demands his seat back after only 90 seconds. Sheldon should be praised for his willingness to part with his prized spot on the couch and for lasting as long as he did. It is not easy for some people with ASD to part with favorite items or interests, or even share those items and interests with others. A good intervention strategy for those who have difficulty sharing or relinquishing control is to ask them to teach you. Ask to join the person’s world and be shown how to play with or use the item or space in question. Over time you can imbed instruction on sharing and other topics.