Teacher Uses TBBT As Asperger’s Training
Sylvia Haughney is a special needs teacher in Scotland. It was recently reported that teachers have been told to watch The Big Bang Theory as a substitute for teacher training on how to deal with students with Asperger Syndrome.
Many fans have pointed out that Sheldon exhibits behaviors similar to those with Asperger. However, the classification has never been discussed on the show. Show creators have even said they are uncomfortable with the label and did not write Sheldon with the intention of appearing that way.
So why would a teacher be told to watch the show for training? Haughney explained that these days teacher training is failing students and teachers alike. She recalls being taught by psychologists and child development specialists directly. However, she says, “That is just gone. We have this ‘cascading’ training, from someone coming and saying ‘oh I went on a course, and this is what we do.”
She explained, “Recently I was in a school and I asked a member of staff who was working specifically with a child with Asperger Syndrome, what training have you had? ‘I was told to watch The Big Bang Theory.”
According to Autismspeaks.org, “Asperger syndrome is one of several previously separate subtypes of autism that were folded into the single diagnosis autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with the publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual in 2013.”
The following behaviors are listed on the website, among others:
• “robotic” or repetitive speech
• challenges with nonverbal communication (gestures, facial expression, etc.) coupled with average to above average verbal skills
• tendency to discuss self rather than others
• inability to understand social/emotional issues or nonliteral phrases
- limited or inappropriate social interactions
Sheldon certainly does meet these classifications. He repeats speech with his “knock knock knock Penny,” and has challenges with physical intimacy with Amy. His friends constantly rag on him for talking about himself and being selfish, and his inability to understand sarcasm was a long running joke at the beginning of the season.
So should Scotland teachers be using TBBT as a teacher training tool?
Most Likely No
Yes, Sheldon does exhibit some of the behaviors labeled as defining Asperger Syndrome. However, watching an American sitcom should never replace valuable teacher training from experienced professionals. Students on the spectrum deserve better. They deserve teachers who have been adequately prepared to help them achieve their highest potential.
Watching the show could present some sensitivity in the very least; watching a character with similar traits as these students may give the teacher an understanding.
However, that’s about where the benefit stops. Haughney recalled how her personal training 34 years ago went, “We were given the training, so we had an understanding. It was direct training, from a psychologist, from a speech language therapist, to give us an understanding and a knowledge of what we were looking for, who we were dealing with and how to go to the next step with that pupil.”
That’s how it certainly should be.