How an iPad and a Generous Stranger Changed a Boy's Life

A 10-year-old autistic boy who relies on an iPad to communicate had heartbreak quickly turn to happiness last week thanks to the generous good deed of a fellow Portland, Oregon resident.

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The boy, Corbin Murr, who sometimes uses a wheelchair to get around, had his custom-app–packed iPad stolen off his chair last week while he was up and about, playing with his older cousin and caregiver, James Freeman, at a local playground.

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“I felt really bad, you know, because that is his world,” Freeman explained in a local KGW TV news story about the theft. “That’s his toy he communicates [with], it’s always glued to his hand, he doesn’t like sharing it with other people, and it just keeps him in his own calmness.”

Luckily, Portlander Charles Turner was watching the news that night. The real estate agent and father of one was so moved by the report that, after a quick discussion with his wife Jenny and their understanding 6-year-old son, he decided to donate one of the family’s three iPads to Murr.

“For me, an iPad is largely a toy and occasionally a business convenience,” Turner told Yahoo! Shine. “To Corbin, it’s a thing of comfort and a communication tool.”

Turner contacted the news station and was put in touch with the boy’s mom, Gillian, who was thrilled to have a replacement for the tablet—a new one of which would have cost her upward of $399. Luckily, Corbin was able to sync the device from Turner with computer downloads of his apps, some of which cost as much as $50 each.

For many severely autistic individuals like Corbin, iPad apps — including AAC Speech Buddy, Articulate It, MetaTouch, and Scene and Heard, according to the website Autism Speaks — can be life-changing communication tools.

Unfortunately, stories about the modern lifelines being stolen from children with autism are not uncommon: In January, a 12-year-old Virginia boy’s iPad was stolen and eventually recovered, although a special communication app that took his family more than a year to customize had been deleted. In Rhode Island in 2012, an 8-year-old girl got lost for several hours, turning up unharmed but robbed of her special iPad; the story so tugged on the heartstrings of a pair of local police officers that they bought her a new one. Similar tales of theft and loss have been reported in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; Manatee County, Florida; and Tampa, Florida in the past year.

Corbin, at least, was one of those whose story had a happy ending. “He’s been getting very good at [using the apps], being able to communicate his needs when he’s thirsty, when he’s hungry, when he wants a certain toy, saying ‘I love you, Mom,’” a very grateful Gillian told KGW. “So it’s a really big thing for him.” Yahoo! Shine was unable to reach Gillian Monday for further comment.

In an interesting twist, Turner, who is an ambassador with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, found out through meeting with the Murrs that Corbin has been granted a July family trip to San Diego from the foundation. Because Corbin is unable to fly, they’ll be making the journey by car. “And an iPad,” Turner noted, “figures in heavily for a 17-hour-plus drive.”

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