Kudos to Universal Studios in Orlando for training their staff to handle people on the autism spectrum so well.
Ralph Koppelman is nine and has autism, his parents know that meltdowns happen. Ralph has autism and the meltdown is not a temper tantrum, it’s a reaction to overwhelming emotions that children with the disability have and can’t express.
The family was at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida waiting patiently to go on the one ride Ralph had been waiting for all day, The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. While they stood in line, it was announced the ride was closed because of a malfunction. Ralph was crushed and fell to the ground crying. His mom Lenore explained in a Facebook post, that the boy was “sobbing, screaming, rocking, hyperventilating, and truly struggling to breathe.”
That’s when ride attendant Jen Whelchel did something amazing. She laid on the ground next to Ralph and calmly talked with him. Lenore explained, “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.”
He was better in 10 minutes.
It turns out that Universal has, as part of employee training, a class on how to handle and care for children with autism and other special needs. Obviously it’s fantastic training.
Photo credit: Lenore Koppelman