Sunday, March 3, 2013


Years ago, Alex became fascinated with slot machines. Even though his mathematical mind understands that the odds of actually winning the jackpot on slot machines are relatively rare, he still remains enamored with them. While some kids want to go to Disney World, Alex wants to go to Las Vegas. Several years ago, a friend of mine who knew how much Alex liked slot machines brought him back a souvenir from a trip to Las Vegas that he still treasures to this day: plastic cups from the casinos used to hold change to play the slot machines. I even made him a slot machine cake one year for his birthday because that was his primary interest at the time. Of course, thinking of Alex in a casino always brings to mind scenes from the movie Rain Man where the Babbitt brothers make a fortune in Las Vegas because Raymond's savant memory allows him to "count cards" and help Charlie win big at the blackjack tables. However, Alex's memory would not be of any use when it comes to the pure luck required for slot machines.

Knowing that he couldn't actually go to the casinos because he wasn't old enough, Alex found good substitutes in home versions of the game, including small slot machine replicas and computer games. One computer game, Casino Empire, allowed him to design his own casino layout and then run the business. Any customers of Alex's casino would need to share his love of slot machines because that's all his casino offered, lots of slot machines. Unfortunately, Alex would spend so much of his allotted money of slot machines that he didn't have enough money to pay the staff, resulting in customer dissatisfaction because apparently the bathrooms were not being cleaned. Alex didn't care; he thought the ultimate casino just needed lots of slots.

As Alex neared the ages of twenty-one, the required age to enter casinos, the more he told us that he wanted to go to a casino and play slots. With the unpredictable behavior he showed last year at the age of twenty, we had doubts that Alex's wish would become a reality anytime soon. However, as he has made improvements, we began to think that he might be able to handle a trip to the casino, especially after he turned twenty-one in December. Knowing how much this trip would mean to him, we decided to offer it as a big reward for good behavior.

At the beginning of last month, we told Alex that if he could behave himself the entire month of February, we would take him to a casino to play slots. He was delighted with this idea, and we discovered that the promise of the trip had benefits for us, as well. Any time Alex started doing something he shouldn't, all we would have to say was, "CASINO!" to make him stop immediately in his tracks. This was a good test for us to see which behaviors he could control. Interestingly, we discovered that Alex could, indeed, control his behavior most of the time when a reminder of the ultimate reward was given. Although he had a few minor slips, for the most part, he behaved very well for the entire month, and we decided that he had earned his reward.

Last Thursday, we had an appointment with the psychiatric nurse practitioner who oversees Alex's medications. Alex didn't realize that her office is only a few minutes from a casino, and we had planned to take him there after the appointment, provided he seemed to be doing well. As we pulled up to the casino that he had only seen in commercials and on the Internet, a huge smile crossed his face, knowing that his wish had finally come true.  Filled with hundreds of slot machines, the Blue Chip Casino lived up to Alex's expectations. Although we were concerned that he might experience sensory overload from the crowds, the flashing lights and sound effects of the slot machines, and the cigarette smoke in the air, Alex seemed oblivious to anything that might bother him. Instead, he focused upon only the excitement of getting to play the slot machines.

During the hour that we spent there, he happily played penny and two-cent slots on three different machines. He played a video slot machine that had icons of money and another based upon his beloved television game show, Wheel of Fortune, but his favorite was an old-fashioned slot machine with reels that actually spun and had the traditional symbols of fruit and bars. In all, he won about a dollar and only wound up spending $3.50, which was cheap entertainment, especially since it made him so happy. In fact, he told us he had wanted to go to a casino "for twenty-one years." How pleased we were that his lifelong dream had finally come true! In the end, he decided that he'd like to come back to the casino another time. Of course, we were willing to make the same deal with him; that is, if he behaves for another month, we'll bring him back to the casino as a reward. We just hope that the buzzword "CASINO" works as well this month as it did last month.

"Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you can receive your full reward." 2 John 1:8


kathy hadley said...

What an inspiring and FUN story about your amazing Alex!!! I was wondering how he handled the ultimate sensory "factory" of a perfect storm...smoke, loud sounds, bright lights, many people, etc but it intrigues me that he basically pushed those aside because he was so hyper-focused on his dream! I hope this continues to be the reward it was the first month. :)

K. C. Wells said...

It sounds like quite a successful trip! Kudos to you and Ed for finding a way to make it work, and kudos to Alex for enjoying himself. :)

marjorie said...

I was horrified when I went to Las Vegas for work and so few of the slot machines had ARMS. You have to PULL the ARM, not push some button, or it's not really a slot machine! I have a hard enough time with the computerized images rather than wheels, but no ARM?

Seriously, glad the casino was such an effective (and cost-effective!) reward and experience for Alex.

Pam Byrne said...

Dear Kathy, K.C., and Marjorie,
I really appreciate your nice comments. When we do something new with Alex, we're never sure how things will work, so when things go smoothly, we're delighted. I'm pleased that the casino was everything Alex hoped it would be. :)

Anonymous said...

I have the same OCD fascination with slots.

many casinos like snoqualmie and mohegan sun have "play for fun" online versions too.

and here is a giant list of slots. be careful!

Pam Byrne said...

Thanks for the information about online slots!

Take care,