Since its July 6 release, Pokémon Go has led to some scary incidents, including car accidents, a stampede in NYC’s Central Park and the discovery of a dead body. But the mobile app has also helped Ralphie Koppelman, a 6-year-old boy with autism, to interact with other children for the first time in his life.
In a July 12 Facebook post, New York City mom Lenore Koppelman detailed what happened the night she introduced her son to the interactive game. “After he caught his first Pokemon at the bakery, he was shrieking with excitement. MY AUTISTIC CHILD IS SOCIALIZING. Talking to people. Verbalizing. Participating in pragmatic speech. With total strangers. Looking up at them. Sometimes in the eye.”
Koppelman tells Us Weekly that Pokémon has helped the rising first-grader to break out of his rigid routine. “Ralphie normally wants to sit at home and draw at his drawing table. We usually have to force him to leave the house,” the professional face painter tells Us. “But once this game came along, he asks to go for walks now. And that’s exciting.”
And when Ralphie is chasing Pokémon, he blends in with all the other players. “He can flap his hands, make funny noises with his mouth, run around shrieking and laughing,” says Koppelman. “While normally kids tend to look at him with puzzled expressions, or even sometimes make fun of him, suddenly they are too busy looking down at their phones to notice Ralphie’s atypical behaviors.”
Ralphie’s story — which was shared on the Love What Matters Facebook page — has since gone viral, with 19,000 likes and more than 6,000 shares.
“Many of the [comments] have been from parents of children on the spectrum with similar stories,” Koppelman tells Us. “And I even heard from three different people with agoraphobia who said that Pokémon Go is helping them get out of their homes for the first time in years!”
Ralphie’s artwork is featured on his blog, What the Kid Drew.