Like many children, Alex finds watching television a pleasant pastime. Besides entertaining him, television has been an important teaching tool for him, as well. When he was a toddler, he liked the PBS children’s shows best; Sesame Street and Barney were special favorites. Besides appealing to his interest in learning letters and numbers, these shows also demonstrated social skills through the characters’ interaction with one another on the shows. As a preschooler, he became a fan of cooking programs and enjoyed watching the Food Network Channel. He referred to his favorite chefs—Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse—on a first-name basis, as though he thought of them as friends. Not surprisingly, he would usually choose to spend time in the play kitchen at preschool; when asked what he wanted to do for free time, he’d always give the same answer: “Cook!” He also liked to cook with me, helping read directions from recipes and participating in the cooking process, imitating what he’d seen his favorite chefs do on tv.
When Alex grew a little older, he preferred watching game shows on television. An early choice was Wheel of Fortune, which is typically a favorite of children like him who have hyperlexia and are precocious readers because they enjoy seeing all the letters and words on the playing board. He became very good at playing Hangman and other word games from watching Wheel. Later, he became fond of The Price Is Right as his interest shifted to numbers and money. Watching The Price Is Right has been beneficial for him because, unlike the savant character with autism in the movie Rain Man, Raymond Babbitt, Alex can accurately identify the price of a candy bar or a brand new car. This show has given him a good sense of how much many typical items realistically cost. Once our cable system began carrying the Game Show Network, Alex became an instant fan, watching old episodes of Match Game, Family Feud, Deal or No Deal, and others. In addition, he really likes their current show Lingo, a word game that has made him adept at solving anagrams. During adolescence, Alex began faithfully watching Jeopardy, which has not only taught him many facts in a wide variety of topics, but also allows him to reveal the vast base of knowledge he already has as he plays along with the contestants. Among his idols is Ken Jennings, who holds the record for most consecutive days of winning on Jeopardy. For a while, he even thought it was clever to sign his name as Kenneth as an homage to his favorite Jeopardy champion.
In the past few years, Alex’s tastes in television resemble more closely those of his peers. While he still enjoys game shows, he also watches various news shows and a variety of televised sports—primarily baseball, basketball, and NASCAR. In addition, he follows poker tournaments on television, especially if his favorite poker pros are playing. Recently, he has begun watching sitcoms; previously, he had no real interest in shows that had a plot. Moreover, his language delays probably inhibited his ability to enjoy verbal humor. Now he regularly watches the comedies The Big Bang Theory and The Middle, and he laughs appropriately at what is funny in these shows. I suspect he is drawn to both shows because two of their main characters, Sheldon and Brick, share many of Alex’s qualities: very intelligent, socially awkward, and often humorous. (Additionally, both characters, like Alex, have a penchant for wearing striped shirts almost exclusively.) Perhaps Sheldon and Brick represent people Alex can relate to and understand, which endears them to him and to us, as well.
“The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” Psalm 121:8