Mom Praises “Amazing” Pokémon Go For Helping Her Autistic Son to Socialize

Even if your kids aren’t playing Pokémon Go, you’ve probably heard of it by now. It’s the mobile app that gets kids (well, and lets face it, lots of adults) outside using their phones and devices to catch the “pocket monsters”. My kids and husband and totally LOVING it, and they’re meeting tons of people—fellow Pokémon Go players— outside while they hunt!

Pokémon Go has also been credited with some accidents, because players haven’t been watching for traffic and or, um, the sides of CLIFFS, apparently. But one special needs mom is praising the game for getting her son, who has autism, to finally begin willingly socializing with others. Lenore Koppelman, mom of Ralphie, 6, who was diagnosed at age 2, joyfully took to Facebook to talk about Ralphie’s progress since he started playing the popular app.

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Lenore Koppelman
Photo: Lenore Koppelman on Facebook

In her post, Koppelman says:

Thanks to the suggestion of my fellow-autism-mama friend and fellow body painter Ren Allen, I finally introduced Ralphie to Pokemon Go tonight. She was right. This thing is AMAZING. After he caught his first one at the bakery, he was shrieking with excitement. He ran outside to catch more. A little boy saw him and recognized what he was doing. They immediately had something in common. He asked Ralphie how many he had caught. Ralph didn’t really answer him, other than to shriek “POKEMON!!!!” and jump up and down with excitement while flapping his arms. Then the little boy showed him how many HE had caught (over 100!) and Ralph said “WOWWWW!” and they high-fived. I almost cried. Then he saw his second Pokemon, sitting on Jenny Lando‘s front step. He caught that one and was so excited he shrieked again and began to jump up and down. Then she came out and he chatted with her about it, too! Then she pointed out to him that there was a lot of Pokemon activity at the playground. He begged to go. He NEVER wants to go to the playground at night, because it’s out of his usual routine. He is normally SO RIGID about his routine. But tonight he was happy to change things up, and do it! We were in shock! And when we got there, other kids ran up to him to hunt for Pokemon together. He was interacting with other kids. Holy crap!!!! I didn’t know if I should laugh, or cry. Then he wanted to go find more, and we walked down 30th ave. Adults were also hunting Pokemon, and these total strangers were giving him advice like “there’s one right around this corner, buddy! Go get it!” and he would run off laughing to get it. He would even look up at them and say “THANK YOU!” and run off! WOW!!!!!
MY AUTISTIC CHILD IS SOCIALIZING. Talking to people. Smiling at people. Verbalizing. Participating in pragmatic speech. With total strangers. Looking up at them. Sometimes even in the eye. Laughing with them. Sharing something in common. This is AMAZING. <3 <3 <3
Thank you Ren Allen, for suggesting this. You were right. And thank youNintendo!!! ASD mama’s DREAM!!!!!! <3 <3 <3 I love you! 😀 ‪#‎PokemonGO‬‪#‎gottacatchemall‬

In an interview with KidSpot, Ralphie’s mom explained a little more about exactly how Ralphie has changed since he began playing Pokémon Go: “He does look certain people in the eye. People he is really comfortable with. But strangers? Not very often. Kids he doesn’t know well? Almost never. But when he is playing Pokemon Go, for some reason, his usual rules simply don’t apply.”

Koppelman also says Ralphie’s been more social when he’s NOT playing Pokémon Go, that his newly acquired social skills are filtering over into other areas of his life. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty great!

Have YOUR kids been playing Pokémon Go? Has it had a good or a bad effect on their behavior?


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Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.