The recent craze of “Pokemon Go” has been associated with people falling from cliffs, grim discoveries and car crashes. However, this wildly popular game has also sparked a miraculous awakening in Ralphie, a 6 year old boy. Ralphie Koppelman suffers from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and hyperlexia. He panics if his routine changes, finds it tough to hold conversations, doesn’t generally make any eye contact with strangers, and struggles socially.
Surprisingly, when he played Pokemon Go for first time, it unlocked something very special within him. Just within minutes of beginning to play the game, Ralphie started smiling, laughing and even shared a high-five with children he was not familiar with, as he participated in the common venture of capturing the virtual, colorful creatures.
Lenore Koppelman, mother of Ralphie, told TODAY that it was her son’s first taste of having things in common with the world. She added that the usual interests of her son are flags, world maps, and drawing. However, while playing the game, he gets so excited that he wishes to go out and interact. This incident is a sort of awakening in Ralphie’s socialization.
Watching Ralphie playing with other children spontaneously for the first time made her mom’s eyes wet with tears. She refers to the game as a kind of miracle for her son.
Initially skeptical about Pokemon Go, Koppelman downloaded the game after being suggested by a friend who stated that it had helped her son with autism become more flexible and social. Gradually she realized that the game is really amazing for her autistic son.
On the first night of his play, Ralphie talked to a young girl catching Pokemon in a bakery of Koppelman’s neighborhood. Later, he looked at a boy with an eye contact and a smile, and high-fived the boy out in the street. Then, Ralphie’s family visited a neighbor who asked Ralphie to go to the playground.
Surprisingly, when she said that a lot of Pokemon are there, Ralphie said that he wanted to go to the playground. Koppelman stated that the familiar routine of Ralphie doesn’t usually involve heading out to playground at night. It was at that time that Ralphie’s parents realized that something significant was happening.
For Ralphie, playground is a stressful place at times. Children want to play with him, but his response comes in a way they don’t get – by making funny noises, spinning in circles, flapping arms, repeating words from his memory or by scripting. Other children make fun of Ralphie, said his mom.
However, this time the case was different. Other children asked Ralphie whether he was playing the game Pokemon Go. On hearing this, he screeched, laughed, and jumped. Next, he and the group of children he hadn’t met before, were running and busy in capturing Pokemon. Suddenly, Ralphie became a part of this kids’ group playing the game together. They included Ralphie and were too busy for noticing his strange behavior.
Filled with emotion, Koppleman cried while hiding. It was a beautiful moment in which her son was quite like every other child. Watching that acceptance was amazing.
In the week following the first night of playing, Ralphie was still chasing Pokemon. When he saw someone playing the game, he talked to them regarding it. Koppleman noted that this was new for him. Pokemon Go has really become a great medium for him to come out of his shell.
As the story of Ralphie reached the web, Koppelman came to know from other families having kids on the spectrum that even they were having a similar experience with Pokemon Go.
She is hopeful that the game’s effects will carry over to Ralphie’s rest of life, with him becoming more social, more willing to go outside, and less rigid. She said that they are letting their son enjoy the game, but at the same time they are also helping him learn that he doesn’t need any such game for doing those things.