Universal Studios Employee Calms An Autistic Child Down After Meltdown

Photo Courtesy of Lenore Koppelman Facebook

Attending amusement parks can be a stressful situation for just about anyone with the multitude of people walking around, the long lines you usually have to make, and the overall stress that comes with attending one of these parks in the first place. A Universal Studios employee has recently been deemed a hero for helping calm down an autistic kid going through an meltdown.

The Koppelman family took their autistic son, Ralph, to Universal Studios in Orlando for the first time ever and they visited the popular theme park, Islands of Adventure. Out of all the rides in the entire park, Ralph was most excited about getting on the Spider-Man ride. Mom, Lenore Koppelman shared with USA Today that the anticipation for getting on the ride was “driving him wild!”

After walking around the park for what seemed like an eternity, they finally arrived at the site of the sought after Spider-Man attraction, they got some less than ideal news. After waiting a while, their turn came to get on the ride which is when they were informed that the ride had broken down and everyone was asked to exit. Ralph didn’t take the news very well, understandably, and immediately began to tantrum.

The child went on to collapse to the ground while hoards of people were trying to exit the ride and the gift shop that is attached to it. He was crying hysterically, yelling, hyperventilating, rocking back and forth and even struggling to breathe of how upset he was. Spotting the commotion, a Universal employee walked over to the child — who was mid-meltdown — and did everything in her power to get the child up from the floor.

At first her efforts were ineffective, with the child continuing to yell and tantrum no matter what she did. Out of options, Jen decided she’d get on the floor with the child, letting him cry it out and slowly helping him get his breath again. In a Facebook post that’s been shared thousands of times, mom shares exactly how the employee was able to calm her child down.

“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 a little bit of time, Ralph began feeling better so they both got up from the ground and Jen told the boy that he’d have free reign to choose whatever he wanted from the ride’s gift shop as long as it was under $50. The humble young boy settled for a notepad and pen to write with and a small ID tag with Spider-Man’s face on it. Jen then asked if he wouldn’t prefer a higher priced item like a toy or something but he said “No thanks, I’m good,” and went on his way.

So how exactly was a Universal Studios' employee so good at calming an autistic child down? Jen explained to mom that Universal Studios makes sure all of their employees get special training about how to help out parkgoers who are special needs or on the autism spectrum — which is a step in the right direction.

With one in 59 children being diagnosed with autism in the U.S. alone, more companies should require employees to undergo sensitivity training to better serve the special needs community. 

Understanding is one of the most valuable things we can offer others, and more often than not, it’s free!

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