Tuesday, April 20

A boy with autism had a crisis in an Orlando park and this employee saved his day


(CNN) — While Spider-Man was off duty, a real-life superhero stepped into action to comfort Lenore Koppelman’s son.

She and her husband Steve took 9-year-old Ralph to Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park in Florida on a trip from New York. Ralph patiently rode other rides all day, but all he wanted to do was take part in the incredible adventures of Spider-Man.

With that attraction located near the park exit, you would have to wait.

Finally, when the moment came, Ralph was bursting with excitement. But with the vehicles in plain sight, Spider-Man stopped working.

Ralph, who has autism, “lost,” Koppelman wrote in a Facebook post.

“We could see (the crisis) coming, like an oncoming train. And yet we could not avoid it.

Ralph lay on the floor at the exit of the promenade, screaming and crying so hard he could barely breathe. People surrounded him. Koppelman wrote that these attacks are rare, but the one in the park was “epic.”

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His parents tried to lift him off the ground while strangers looked at the distressed child.

That’s when the employee of the Spider-Man attraction, Jen Whelchel, laid down next to him.

Images uploaded to Facebook by Ralph Koppelman’s mother.

She let him cry, helped him breathe, and diverted pedestrians. He told Ralph it was okay to be sad, Koppelman wrote. The two of them stayed until the boy felt better.

When they got up, Ralph picked out some Spider-Man products from the gift shop (courtesy of Whelchel). Ralph smiled and thanked her, and Koppelman hugged her, long and hard.

The mother shared her experience with a brilliant Facebook recommendation, now shared more than 34,000 times, thanking the “magical people” who made Ralph feel special.

“I realized that his level of discomfort was more than the normal level of discomfort,” Whelchel told The Washington Post. I was really, really, really hurt. It was getting worse second by second.

The kindness didn’t end with Whelchel.

Koppelman recognized the two park restaurant employees who gave their son a coloring pencil when they only had pens, the woman who let Ralph ride the Dr. Seuss-themed carousel twice in a row, and the locker keeper. near the roller coaster of The Mummy, who guided the family through the “way back” to bypass the stairs.

“He is OUR top priority because we love him more than ANYTHING and ANYONE, but you all only met him today,” she wrote. “And yet they behaved as if they were family.”

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Steve Koppelman told CNN that the family had avoided stares and comments when Ralph had had a public meltdown on previous occasions. But Whelchel’s empathy and non-judgment made all the difference this time around.

“For starters, we’d rather have a day where it’s wonderful,” he said. But instead of getting angry or impatient with Ralph, it was encouraging to see the employees, especially Jen, jump in and really know how to get on their level and just cut things down.

Thousands of users thanked Koppelman for his story and praised Whelchel and Universal Orlando for their sensitivity. Koppelman said Whelchel and a customer service representative told her that the company trains employees on how best to serve attendees with autism.

Ralph didn’t end up riding Spider-Man that day, his mother wrote, but the family plans to take another trip and get in line as soon as they get there.


cnnespanol.cnn.com

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