In 2005, my son said he wanted to give away some of his old toys to other little children to make more
room for newer, more age appropriate toys.

Looking at his Barney laptop computer and green LeapFrog stuffed animal, I pulled them from his pile
of toys that he was making.

When he wasn't looking, I pushed them under the bed and thought he wouldn't notice. The truth was, I
didn't want to part with those 2 toys because they meant so much to me as a parent.

The solid puple rectangular laptop and the green stuffed Leap Frog animal taught letters, numbers,
colors and shapes. Both toys had interactive voices that praised correct pushes of buttons or pads.

Within one week, Michael self taught himself everything on those toys. He got them on his second
birthday. The toys to me showed how smart he is. He started talking more and often used the laptop or
letter pad on the stuffed animal as an assistive speaking device, then started to speak along with the two
toy's voices.

When a psychologist said Michael was severely mentally retarded, she changed her mind when these
toys were brought in and he demonstrated that he knew all his colors, shapes, numbers and letters at 2,
even though he didn't want to speak or look at her or appear at all to be listening.

In 2005 when this website started, the first letter I received was from a woman so convinced her that
her Autistic son Trevor was so smart. I wrote her back and asked if he talked in his sleep or had been
checked to rule out an oral motor problem. Yes to both of those questions.

That is when I learned that the two toys that I credited with motivating my child to speak no longer
were manufactured. I recommended them to Trevor's mom and heard back from her the same day,
disappointed that she could not buy them in stores or online.

So my little man and I decided we would mail Trevor his toys. The durable laptop was in almost mint
condition and the Leap Frog animal was probably the 4th one we bought after the others broke. That
another child with Autism would receive them was probably the only way I would've given them away.

Trevor's mom called me the first night he had the toys. Like Michael, these were the first toys he
played with appropriately. We both imagined that it was the voice. These were not the lighted toys that
parents of Autistic kids are told to buy for sensory stimulation. Though both had musical components,
music was not always primary...

Like Michael, Trevor delighted in playing games with Barney and Leap Frog's voices praising him for
answering correctly. His mom cried as I had that she had proof that he is very smart. Trevor, again like
Michael, started speaking non stop not long after he got the toys.

As Michael and I had done, so did Trevor and his mom give the toys a couple months later to another
child with Autism. Same results. Not only did Trevor's mom write in to me when I wrote about these
toys, word of mouth and internet also filled the mailbox with letters from parents who wished to give the
toys to kids with Autism. The number of requests was a little over the number of toys we could round up.

Around that time, a man I've since come to lovingly call Mr. Canada had had one too many to drink and
blasted me that he was tired of hearing about these toys and kids with Autism. The next day, he wrote to
apologize and to offer to help pay for postage and packaging to get what became the first of now three
rounds of The Toy Exchange Program.

Not only did he accept all the mail about the toys, he called each home to confirm the mailing address
before the packages were mailed. Many of the families who had the toys for their children wishing to
donate them were great to offer to package and mail them directly to new kids. Mr. Canada coordinated
all of these exchanges.

Enter friends of a late police detective who learned first hand with Michael and then with one of their
own children how key and special these 2 toys are to kids with Autism. They passed the hat around and
added it to Mr. Canada's postage stash. More importantly, they started searching for other used toys.
Instead, one learned quite a stash of new ones unopened were recovered in a bust of stolen property and
worked through red tape to let us buy them cheaply from the legal owner.

Every 6-10 months since then, Mr. Canada, the
way kewl detectives and parents/caregivers of the
previous Toy Exchange Program have kept the postage and shipping account afloat. About 400 kids to
date have received them. Due to breakage and a few who probably lost them and lost contact, we are
down now to about 100 sets. Meanwhile, Michael's orignal toys are still working and have been through
Trevor and about 10 other kids with Autism.

If your child has Autism, is not speaking or has minimal speech, and is under 7 years of age, and you
would like to participate in the Toy Exchange Program,
please write to:                                                        and provide the following information:    
 *your name
 *complete mailing address
 *current phone number
 *first name and age of your child

If you participate, please understand that Mr. Canada will likely have several phone calls with you for
those 6-10 months. If you do not want contact, please understand that children whose parents are willing
to provide feedback will be given a higher priority. Please use the back key to return to the previous

jt    (
22 Apr 08)
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