ORLANDO, Fla. -- The mother of a boy with autism posted a heartfelt thank you to the Universal Orlando employee whose empathy and training helped calm her son during a meltdown at the park.
Lenore Koppelman said her son, Ralph, had been waiting patiently all day to go on The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride in Islands of Adventure, the last island on their visit.
Koppelman said the anticipation was driving him wild, but he was coping, accepting his mother's promises of "Soon, baby, soon," with a sigh and an "OK."
When they finally got to the Spider-Man ride he was ecstatic -- at first.
"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," Koppelman wrote in a Facebook post.
It was too much for Ralph, who collapsed on the floor.
"He began sobbing, screaming, rocking, hyperventilating, and truly struggling to breathe," she wrote. "A woman who worked there named Jen came over... no... no, she RUSHED over... and while I frantically kept trying to get him to stand up so he wouldn't get trampled on by people, she encouraged me to leave him on the floor if that is where he needed to be."
Then, Koppleman wrote, Jen got down on the floor with her son with him. This is how she described the moment:
"She rested next to him while he cried his heart out, and she helped him breathe again. 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."
Not only did she support Ralph until the meltdown passed, she offered to buy him anything less than $50 from the gift shop. He chose a small notebook and pen, along with an ID tag with his name and Spider-Man's face on it.
"She suggested some other toys that were even more expensive, and he looked at her and said 'No thanks. I'm good.' And he SMILED. And THANKED her," Koppleman wrote.
When asked how she knew what to do in that situation, Jen said she and other Universal employees had been given special training to help visitors with autism.
" I hugged her for the LONGEST time... several times, if I'm being honest," Koppleman wrote. "And then the entire family left the store and marched straight over to customer relations without a single pit-stop, to sing Jen's praises."
She also thanked several others who made the trip a success, despite Ralph not being able to experience the Spider-Man ride.
"We will save up for another trip to Universal, either in Florida or LA, and we will go to the Spider-Man ride FIRST. They DEFINITELY have a repeat customer in us!"