A mother has praised a theme park employee for their compassionate reaction to her son’s ‘autistic meltdown’.
Lenore Koppelman and her family were in Florida for a conference when they decided to tie the trip in with a visit to Universal Orlando Resort.
Lenore’s son Ralph, nine, was looking forward to riding the Spider-Man ride at Islands of Adventure. So when they arrived and found it was closed for the day, he had what his mum calls an ‘autistic meltdown’.
The nine-year-old was ‘extremely excited’ to experience the ride and had been waiting patiently all day to go on it, but just as the family got to the front of the queue, they were informed it had broken down and everyone had to leave.
In a Facebook post describing the day’s events, Lenore wrote:
Ralph, understandably, lost it. (Wouldn’t you?). My husband and I know the signs. We could see it coming, like an oncoming train. And yet we couldn’t dodge out of the way. There was nowhere else to go. The autistic meltdown was GOING to HAPPEN. And happen it DID.
Urging everyone to understand these were not the actions ‘of a spoiled and naughty child’, Lenore expressed this was Ralph’s way of asking for help because he was scared and overwhelmed.
Explaining what happened next, Ralph’s mum described how he collapsed onto the floor and ‘began sobbing, screaming, rocking, hyperventilating, and truly struggling to breathe’.
Enter: Jen, an employee at the theme park who rushed over, got down on the floor next to Ralph, and rested next to him while he ‘cried his heart out’.
The post read:
She rested next to him while he cried his heart out, and she helped him breathe again. She spoke to him so calmly, and while he screamed and sobbed, she gently kept encouraging him to let it all out.
She told people to keep on walking around them, so they would stop standing there and staring. And then she told him it was okay for him to be sad and feel this way.
She understood. She would feel the same way too. His feelings were validated. And she told him he could lay there with her as long as he needed to until he felt better.
Eventually, with Jen’s help, Ralph did start to feel better and the employee told him he could have anything he wanted from the gift shop – up to $50.
All Ralph wanted was a tiny notebook and pen to write with, and a tiny ID tag with Spider-Man’s face on it and his name. Jen suggested some other toys that were more expensive, but Ralph just said ‘no thanks, I’m good’.
Lenore thanked Jen for her ‘amazing help,’ and the family were offered free VIP park tickets for the next time they’re in Orlando.
What a heartwarming story, hats off to Jen for being so understanding and supportive.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).