When Aaron was very young, probably when he was about a year and a half old, he started watching Wheel of Fortune every evening. He absolutely loved that game show! He would laugh and clap as he watched the letters being called out and then turned by Vanna White. He would even stand by our dishwasher, reach inside when the door was open, and turn the bottom spray arm as he gleefully clapped and laughed and in his little voice yelled out, “Wheel. Of. FORTUNE!!!!” He was adorable. And unbeknownst to us, he was learning his letters. He totally shocked us one day before he was 2 years old by pointing to the letters in a magazine article that Gary was reading and telling him what each letter was. Gary yelled for me to come, so I ran downstairs, expecting that maybe Aaron had fallen and gotten hurt. But instead Gary wanted me to see this surprise that was sitting on his lap…………our little baby boy who was correctly calling out each letter as Gary pointed to it. We clapped every bit as much as the contestants on Wheel of Fortune, and Aaron clapped in delight as well.
We moved to Germany that next year, where we lived for six years and where Aaron didn’t have the same opportunity to watch his beloved Wheel of Fortune. As he grew up and we moved back to the States, he never became attached to that once-favorite show like he had when he was a toddler. Last year, though, Aaron found his old Wheel of Fortune PC game. He and I played it occasionally, and really had a lot of fun with it. Now he has a new Wheel of Fortune PC game, which we played a few weeks ago…….and once again had fun doing that together. All of this led me to remember that Wheel of Fortune is still on television, so I told Aaron this bit of news. I am beginning to question the wisdom of that decision. 🙂
The first night that he and I watched Wheel of Fortune together, Aaron was almost as delighted as when he was a little child. Now every day the questioning starts in the morning. “Mom, can we watch Wheel of Fortune tonight?” I always tell him that I’m not sure. Soon he repeats the question. “So, Mom, can we watch Wheel of Fortune tonight?” Again, I repeat that I’ll have to see what’s going on. I’ve learned to never commit definitely to an activity, because if something interrupts it, I am in huge trouble with Aaron. In his mind, I have lied. That’s the black and white world in which Aaron lives. But again I hear, “So Mom, do you think we can watch Wheel of Fortune?” I’ll answer the same as long as he asks, but he is never deterred.
Watching Wheel of Fortune with Aaron is somewhat entertaining……..interesting……….funny……..and definitely loud. Quite loud. Aaron doesn’t miss a beat, either. Every sequence of events, every comment, every gesture……everything!…….is for him a source of endless commentary. And the loudness comes from the clapping. Not the contestants clapping, but Aaron’s clapping! Oh my goodness. That young man can clap louder than any human on the planet, of that I am quite certain. I am taken back to his little chubby hands clapping together with great joy as a toddler watching Wheel of Fortune. Now he’s grown and has over the years perfected this ear-splitting clap of his, made with his thick hands. Seriously, his clap will at times leave my ears ringing.
Aaron wants to watch Wheel of Fortune for the very beginning until the very end. This is the same way that he reads a book or watches a movie. He reads a book from the very, very first word until the very, very last word…….table of contents, index, and all. He watches a movie from the very, very beginning until the very, very end…………down to the very tiniest print at the very, very end of the credits. Sigh. So when I made my semi-commitment to watch Wheel of Fortune with Aaron, it was on the condition that I may NOT be able to watch it every single night. I have to cover all my bases here. Then I remembered the DVR, and so decided that I could tape the show on nights that I might be busy right at 6:30……….or for Aaron, 6:29……..so that he can watch the very, very first part of the show. He loves watching Vanna and Pat come out on the stage together amidst the clapping and cheers. This is, of course, a very, very necessary part of Wheel of Fortune…….for Aaron.
The first night that I taped Wheel of Fortune, I called Aaron downstairs for supper. He thought I called him down to watch the show and so he was very concerned when he saw us sitting down to eat. I told him not to worry, that I was taping the show, and yet he still had worry written all over his face. “But Mom, are you taping for the VERY beginning of the show?!!” I assured him that I was. Then a couple minutes later……”Mom, are you SURE you’re taping from the VERY beginning?” And again I promised that the show would start at the VERY beginning. I tried to explain the wonder of the DVR, but he wasn’t convinced and continued to ask several more times if I was SURE that Wheel of Fortune would start at the VERY important beginning. I sure was praying that our DVR worked correctly, and was VERY thankful when yes indeed, we got to see Vanna and Pat walk out together. Whew!
Like I said, there is nothing that goes unnoticed by Aaron. His questions and his comments are numerous. “Mom, are Vanna White and Pat Sajak married?” I told him that they are not married. “So why do they hold hands?” And I explain that they are good friends and have worked together for many years……and so they hold hands sometimes. He thought this was strange.
Aaron wonders about the clothes that Vanna and Pat wear. “So Pat Sajak wears a suit but Vanna White wears a fashion dress.” Yes. “Vanna’s dress is long! Why doesn’t she trip on it?” “Would you like a dress like that, Mom?” “Why is her dress all shiny?” “Look!! She has flowers on her dress!!” And on and on it goes.
He notices the card that Pat is holding and wonders what is written on it. He notices the way that the letter board lights up and is it a computer and how Vanna just touches it and the letter turns. He notices Pat Sajak’s personality – “Pat Sajak does this thing of being funny! Why is he funny?” And Aaron just can’t make sense of why Pat must ask questions of the contestants. To Aaron this is very odd. “Mom, why is he asking if they’re married?! He’s not married to them!” No amount of explanation seems to sink in to Aaron, and he continues to wonder about all those rather strange, rude questions.
And the clapping………….yes, the clapping of the audience and the contestants. This frequent clapping gives Aaron permission to join in, much like he did when he was a child. Except that the decibels have gone way up now, and so I cringe and I fuss and I threaten………but to no avail. CLAP!!! “Mom, look at how they spin the wheel!” CLAP!!! “Mom, did they land on the Jackpot?!” CLAP!!! And sometimes for no reason…….CLAP!!!! CLAP!!!! CLAP!!!!
Aaron wonders why the contestants are so happy when they win a trip. CLAP!!! “So what’s the big deal about going to an island?” CLAP!!! He finds the cars that they sometimes win to be very interesting. “Mom, the car tonight was silver!! And last night it was red!” CLAP!!! “So when they win a car, it’s cost free?!” Oh, I do love how he describes these concepts.
Yes, Aaron, the car is cost free. CLAP!!!
He really doesn’t understand the facial expressions of the contestants. This is so common for those with autism. The expressions on other’s faces and the social cues that are presented often go completely unnoticed. Therefore, as Aaron watches the body language that goes on during this game show, he is puzzled. “Mom, that woman is strange!” I asked him why he would say that and he replied, “Because she’s so excited.” I use the opportunity to explain her excitement and why it transfers to her outward behavior, but almost before I can finish he’s off on another observation.
“Why is that woman making a face with her eyes big like this?!” Or…..”Did you see what she did to her hair?” He registers nearly every eye movement, hand gesture, shoulder shrug, laugh, frown………..it all goes in his brain, but he can’t necessarily make sense of it. So interesting! At this point, I’m finding myself more intrigued by Aaron than I am by Wheel of Fortune. CLAP!!!
Then there was the night that Vanna White hugged the guest LA Lakers basketball player at the end of the game. Aaron found this to be of great interest, as he blurted out, “SEXY!!!” I gave him my stern look and he explained, “But you said that word isn’t a bad word.”
So I had to agree that, yes, I did say that the word ‘sexy’ is not a bad word……….but I just never know where Aaron is going to go with something like that. Good grief – why does he have to notice everything?!
Aaron, why don’t you just go and……………CLAP!!!!