The “Pokemon Go” craze has been linked to car crashes, grim discoveries and even reports of people falling off a cliff. But the wildly popular mobile game has also led to a beautiful awakening in a 6-year-old boy named Ralphie.
Ralphie Koppelman has autism spectrum disorder and hyperlexia. He struggles socially, doesn’t usually make eye contact with strangers, has difficulty holding conversations and panics when his routine changes.
But playing the game for the first time unlocked something special inside him.
Within minutes of starting the game, his parents were thrilled — and shocked — to see him laughing, smiling and even sharing a high-five with kids he didn’t know, as he joined in the common pursuit of capturing those colorful, virtual creatures.
“I would call it Ralph’s first taste of what it’s like to have something in common with the rest of the world,” his mom, Lenore Koppelman, told TODAY, noting that her son’s usual interests are drawing, world maps and flags. “He gets excited enough that he wants to reach out and communicate. It’s like an awakening in his socialization.”
Seeing her son play with other kids in a spontaneous way for the first time brought tears to her eyes, and she describes the game as nothing short of a miracle for Ralphie.
“This all sounds so melodramatic, but to say it’s not true would be a lie,” Koppelman said. “It’s our own little miracle.”
Though skeptical about the game, Koppelman downloaded it at the suggestion of a friend who said it helped her autistic son be more social and flexible.
“I finally introduced Ralphie to ‘Pokemon Go’ tonight,” Koppelman wrote on Facebook. “She was right. This thing is AMAZING.” She ended the post with, “Thank you Nintendo!!! ASD mama’s DREAM!!!!!! I love you!”