After introducing Ralph to Pokémon Go Lenore Koppelman, Ralph’s mother, took to Facebook to applaud the popular game.
The full post reads:
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 you Nintendo!!! ASD mama’s DREAM!!!!!! <3 <3 <3 I love you! 😀 #PokemonGO #gottacatchemall
Steve Koppelman, Ralph’s father, added: “Ralph doesn’t have an easy time responding to open-ended questions, especially from other kids. But now, when we point out another person playing the game, or another kid approaches him because they see him playing it, he responds to them excitedly.”
Ralph was evaluated shortly after his second birthday and a state-assigned psychologist concluded that his was one of the most extreme cases of hyperlexia he’d seen in years.
“Hyperlexia is an unusually early ability to read,” Ralph’s father explained. “It’s often accompanied by an all-consuming fixation on letters and words. It is usually considered a trait that manifests in a small percentage of kids on the autistic spectrum.”
Ralph’s autism means he needs a rigorous schedule to stay calm day-to-day.
Steve Koppelman said: “For two years, Ralph insisted on a rigid routine after school: stopping at the same corner grocery for a bag of popcorn and a bottle of apple juice, followed by running to a bus stop, then taking the bus the mere eight blocks home, then counting the steps to the front door, then counting the steps up the flight of stairs, a routine developed during a winter. Any attempt to change this routine would make him panic and melt down, and it could take hours for him to calm down again.”
But thanks to Pokémon Go Ralph has become more flexible. In fact, within the first 15 minutes of playing, he was breaking his own rules.
“He sees the trip home as an opportunity to hunt Pokémon and will take any route home,” said Ralph’s dad. “He’ll even come along on errands or go to the neighborhood playground instead of going straight home. He’s pulled along by the lure of more items to collect or Pokémon to catch down the next block or around the next corner.”
Ralph particularly loves finding and catching Pokémon.
“He jumps and spins for joy when the phone vibrates to indicate a Pokémon has appeared within range on the map,” his father said. “Then he can’t wait to tell everyone about it.”
Ralphs parents plan to introduce other activities besides Pokémon Go to his routine so he stays open to further gradual change.
“We are trying to figure out strategies for not letting this become as deeply ingrained a routine as his old ones,” Steve Koppelman said. He and Ralph’s mother feel lucky that Ralph isn’t prone to walking off: “We’re fortunate that Ralph will generally stop at corners and will come back when called. Even six months ago, he was much more prone to wandering off on his own and not answering when called; the game would have been more of a hazard.”