"Try telling him it's a non-optional social convention."—Sheldon's friend, Howard Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, shutterstockThe Big Bang Theory is a sitcom about a group of nerdy scientists and the social challenges they face as they try to navigate the world. There's a lot of speculation by fans that one of the main characters, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, is on the autism spectrum. He clearly has trouble with social skills, and isn't a flexible thinker. He also doesn't read social cues well and often says things without thinking about the impact on other people. In one episode, Sheldon doesn't understand why he should buy a birthday present for his friend, Leonard. From Sheldon's point of view, Leonard doesn't need anything and hasn't said he wants anything, so it doesn't make sense to get him anything. After trying to explain gift-giving in multiple ways, Sheldon's friends tell him it's a "non-optional social convention," which finally convinces him. The lesson: "No matter how many times you explain the reasons behind a social rule, it may not make sense to some kids," says educator Amanda Morin. That's especially true for children with social skills issues. It's important for your child to know the"why" behind a rule. But sometimes it's enough for him to know that some things are "non-optional social conventions"—you do them whether it makes sense to you or not.
"Actually, I had him tested as a child. Doctor says he's fine. Although, I do regret not following up with that specialist in Houston."—Sheldon's motherNicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, shutterstockOn Big Bang Theory, people often have trouble making sense of Sheldon's behavior. He always tells people, "I'm not crazy—my mother had me tested." This generates a lot of laughs on the show, but it also offers an important lesson. The lesson: When a child struggles with social situations or in school, some may say it's a "behavior issue" or he's a "brat." Others may say the child is "too smart" to have any issues. However, if you feel something more is going on, Morin says it's important to trust your gut and see a specialist for an evaluation. The better you know your child's challenges, the better you'll be able to get him any help or support he needs.
"It occurred to me you hadn't returned any of my calls because I hadn't offered any concrete suggestions for pursuing our friendship."—SheldonNicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, shutterstockIn a memorable episode, Sheldon literally maps out a step-by-step "algorithm" for making new friends. The algorithm includes a decision loop that tells him when he needs to compromise and do something the other person wants to do. The lesson: "Many kids need direct coaching on how to connect with other kids and make friends," says Morin. They may have a hard time learning to compromise and understand that friendship is a give and take. While a friendship "algorithm" is likely too much, it can help to set aside time to teach your child ways to make friends. You can't always expect him to pick these skills up on his own.
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