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Autism, a Missing iPad, and the ‘Mighty’ Wonderful Way We Got It Back

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My daughter Shea is on the autism spectrum. She is a sweet, charming, funny girl. Thanks to Steve Jobs, the iPad opened up her world several years ago like it has for so many of our kids. Because Shea doesn’t have strong leisure skills and is mostly nonverbal, she relies on her iPad 24/7. Over the past few years, she has gone through about 10 iPads by throwing them, dropping them in water, breaking them in some unknown mysterious way, etc. When one of the above happens, it’s a mad scramble to get her a new one and quick. Thankfully the $99 Apple Care generally takes care of the replacement (sorry, Apple).

Three days ago, my husband was picking up our daughter from school, which I usually do, but he’s a good pinch hitter. I discovered upon their return that she did not have her iPad. I asked him if he’d forgotten to get it from the school and he said, no, she was using it in the car and then she didn’t want to. As a veteran of these circumstances I immediately knew it meant her battery had run out, as she never “loses interest” in it. Then he said he forgot to put the child locks on the door and window and she’d kept trying to open both repeatedly, making for a dangerous situation under the best of circumstances. Oh no… this was trouble.

Long story short, it wasn’t anywhere to be found. She’d thrown it out of the car at some point along the 30-minute journey. Panic set in. We knew we were going to have to buy her a new one, however, neither of us could do it until Friday — four days away.

I woke up this morning to check my email and saw one from The Mighty. I assumed it was my regular newsletter, but I saw it was addressed to me personally. What it said shocked me.

Dear Terri,

I hope this email finds you well. I’m reaching out because we received an email from someone reaching out because they believe they found an iPad belonging to your family…

What? I couldn’t believe it, so with my permission, this editor was able to put us in touch. Questions were racing through my mind. How/where did he find it? How did he know it belonged to us? And how in the world did he find us through The Mighty?

I sent him an email, and he emailed me back with his work address and said I could pick it up anytime. I raced over and walked into a large high-tech office. I told the receptionist I was there to see the kind gentleman, and she said he was expecting me. I asked her if he told her why I was there, and she said no. I proceeded to tell her the story, and by the end we were all crying. He rounded the corner, and to my surprise he was a “kid” (to me at least because most of my kids are older than him). He had Shea’s iPad clutched in his hands and happily handed it to me. I gave him a big bear hug, and he returned with an equally firm squeeze. I’m not sure he understood why I was crying so I told him I hoped he realized this was not about getting her iPad back (although it was really great… really great), but it was about him and the lengths he must have gone to find me.

man with lost ipad

He said he was walking along the side of the road not far from his office and saw it lying in a gutter. Shea’s first and last name were written on the back with a Sharpie. It was very worn so you could barely read it. He Googled her name and came across an article I wrote for The Mighty a year or so ago, and tada!

girl with found ipad

Maybe it’s just this time of year that made this so special and me so weepy, but I was truly touched. I told him he restored my faith in humanity and the generosity of the human spirit. He probably thought, “This lady needs to get out more!” But his eyes were kind, and he said he was very happy my daughter was going to get it back. It meant a lot to all of us. Now, if that isn’t a feel-good holiday story, I don’t know what is.

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Originally published: December 22, 2016
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