Lenore Koppelman, a mom to a little boy named Ralph who has autism, recently took the time to thank a Universal Studios Orlando employee who helped comfort her son during a meltdown. In a now-viral Facebook post, she explained what happened when her son became overwhelmed while waiting to board the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride at Islands of Adventure.
"As wonderful, loving, intelligent and incredible as Ralph is, sometimes he struggles," she wrote. "When he struggles the hardest, he can have something known as an 'autistic meltdown.' Some people who are not educated about autism might see it as a temper tantrum. But the fact of the matter is that it is not the act of a spoiled and naughty child. It's a cry for help. This is Ralph's way of saying 'I don't know how to monitor and regulate my emotions right now. I need help, please! I'm scared! I'm overwhelmed! I want to feel better and I don't know how!.' And here came Jen to the rescue."
Because Ralph was beyond excited to take a whirl on the Spider-Man ride, the fact that he had to wait until the end of the day to ride it due to the attraction's location in the park started to wear on his patience. When they got to the ride, Lenore gave an employee Ralph's handicap-access tickets and the family made its way over to a cool, air-conditioned spot to wait until it was time to board.
When we finally got back to Spider-Man, he was leaping for joy. He thought "OH WOW! This is IT! FINALLY!" and you should have seen the SMILE on his face. It was incredible. Then when it was almost our turn to board, and he could see the end in sight, the vehicles right in front of us, we got the news that the ride had broken down. Everyone was very nicely asked to exit. And 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.
"While I frantically kept trying to get him to stand up so he wouldn't get trampled on by people, she encouraged me to leave him on the floor if that is where he needed to be."
Ralph then collapsed on the floor. "He began sobbing, screaming, rocking, hyperventilating, and truly struggling to breathe," said Lenore. "A woman who worked there named Jen came over . . . no . . . no, she RUSHED over . . . and while I frantically kept trying to get him to stand up so he wouldn't get trampled on by people, she encouraged me to leave him on the floor if that is where he needed to be."
She continued: "Then she did this. She got down on the floor WITH HIM. 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."
After Ralph's meltdown came to an end, Jen took the time to escort him to the gift shop and encouraged him to pick something he liked. After settling on a notebook and pen, Ralph seemed to be feeling a lot better.
"He SMILED. And THANKED her. He was exhausted and rattled, as we ALL get after one of his rare epic meltdowns. But what a relief it was that it was over thanks to Jen, and her knowledge about what to do," gushed Lenore. "I asked her how she knew how to do that, and she told me that everyone at Universal Studios gets special training when it comes to people who are awesomely autistic, as well as other special needs. I hugged her for the LONGEST time . . . several times, if I'm being honest."
After being treated so kindly, Lenore is now singing Jen's praises and wants to make it clear how thankful her family is for the compassion that was shown that day.
"A message to all of the people who work at Universal Studios: Please read this and know that my family and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts," she wrote. "I know Ralphie does too. THANK YOU for recognizing that Ralphie is a GREAT kid. A SWEET kid who just struggles with certain things (as we ALL do, neurodiverse or not). THANK YOU for treating him with SO much kindness and patience."