Theme park worker helps calm 9-year-old child having an 'autistic meltdown' and the act of kindness goes viral
A mother of one was full of praise for theme park employee Jennifer Whelchel who treated her autistic son's meltdown in a very sensitive and respectful manner
A mother is full of praise for a theme park worker who went above and beyond the job after her young son had an "autistic meltdown". The theme park employee reacted in the most compassionate and sensitive way possible.
Lenore Koppelman was traveling with her family to Florida for a conference when they decided to take a trip to the Universal Orlando Resort. Koppelman's son, nine-year-old Ralph, was looking forward to the Spiderman ride at Islands of Adventure. Unfortunately, upon arriving at the ride attraction, they came to find that it was closed for the day due to malfunctions and he had what his mother described as an "autistic meltdown".
She recounted the incident on her Facebook page and wrote, "My husband and I know the signs. We could see it coming, like an oncoming train. And yet we couldn’t dodge out of the way. There was nowhere else to go...The autistic meltdown was GOING to HAPPEN. And happen it DID."
In his "autistic meltdown", Ralph was seen "sobbing, screaming, rocking, hyperventilating, and truly struggling to breathe" — all while lying on the ground even as Koppelman tried her best to get Ralph up safely. That was when they were approached by an employee, Jennifer Whelchel. Whelchel did her best to try and soothe the child down. "Jen", as Koppelman called her, told her that Ralph could stay exactly where he was and also lay down next to the child.
"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," Koppelman wrote. "What Jen did is a way of saying, ‘I agree with you, I support your feelings, but I’ll lie here quietly. There’s no eye contact, it's not in-your-face. It's understanding that you do feel sad and frustrated, and I hear that and I validate that," she added.
Whelchel also asked passersby to not take any pictures of Ralph and to also not stop and stare. Very often people assume that an autistic meltdown is just a bratty child acting out, but it only happens when a child is overwhelmed by emotions. Eye contact can also be very stressful for autistic children. "I noticed his level of upset was more than the regular level of upset," Whelchel said, according to Washington Post.
"He was really, really, really hurt. It was getting worse by the second," she added. After the child was able to calm down a little, Whelchel also arranged for him to pick up a free gift from the Spiderman store. Whelchel shared, "That's not the first time I've done that and it's most definitely not the last." Ralph reminded her of her eight-year-old nephew who also has autism.
The warm story touched the hearts of many and several social media users took to commenting on the post. One person wrote, "I am totally crying! I haven’t gotten the nerve to try an amusement park yet but this gives me hope!" Another added, "Too often when we see small children or people with special needs having what we see as 'Spoiled Tantrums' we are all so quick to cast judgments upon them and their caregivers. We expect them to act NORMAL."