Theme Park Employee Hailed a Hero for Her Response to a Rider Having an Autistic Meltdown

On a recent family vacation to Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Florida, 9-year-old Ralph Koppelman had just one thing on the brain: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride.

His mom, Lenore Koppelman, chronicled the events of their day in a now-viral Facebook post that is winning the internet this week for ALL of the right reasons.

Ralph, who is “awesomely autistic,” spent the day patiently waiting and anticipating his chance to ride the Spider-Man ride, which was near the exit.

“He kept on asking us if the ride was coming up soon, and we would reassure him and say ‘Soon, Baby. Soon.’” Lenore writes in her post, saying it would be one of their last rides.

“He was SO patient for SO long. As patient as he possibly could be. He would say ‘Okay’ and sigh, and then enjoy the next ride. But all the while, the excitement was building up to the pinnacle of his day: The Spiderman ride near the exit of Islands of Adventure.”

When it finally came time to head to Spider-Man, it took everything in Ralph not to explode with excitement.

“The anticipation was driving him wild!” Lenore says.

After waiting the final 15 minutes for their turn to get onto the ride, Ralph was leaping for joy. He had made it!

“You should have seen the SMILE on his face. It was incredible.”

But things took a rapid turn just moments before they were about to board the ride.

“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?).”

Lenore says she and her husbands know the signs: the ones that point to a rare, but epic “autistic meltdown.”

“Some people who are not educated about autism might see it as a temper tantrum,” she writes. “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!’”

They could see it coming “like an oncoming train,” she says. But in such a crowded space with nowhere to escape to quickly, it was impossible to dodge the inevitable: “The autistic meltdown was GOING to HAPPEN. And happen it DID.”

“Ralph collapsed onto the floor while crowds of people were attempting to exit the ride and the gift shop attached to it. He began sobbing, screaming, rocking, hyperventilating, and truly struggling to breathe.”

Bri Lamm
Bri Lamm
Bri Lamm is the Editor of An outgoing introvert with a heart that beats for adventure, she lives to serve the Lord, experience the world, and eat macaroni and cheese all while capturing life’s greatest moments on one of her favorite cameras. Follow her on Facebook.

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