Now Reading: How Finding An Old Toddler Toy Shows Progress & Growth In My Autistic Son

How Finding An Old Toddler Toy Shows Progress & Growth In My Autistic Son

(originally written & published on February 9, 2014)

Sometimes progress isn’t measured from one week to the next. And sometimes it’s not even noticed or appreciated for years.

I find myself noticing progress and how far the king has come when I see a toy or an item from Kyle’s old days. 
That’s what happened here… 
A few weeks ago Kyle was playing in his playroom and wifey opened the closet in there to get something.

The king’s eyes
lit up when he saw a bunch of his old toys in there. 
Wifey purposefully takes toys in & out of rotation so when he gets satiated with one there’s an oldie but goody ready to take its place. 
So anyway she opened the closet and he noticed right away and his eyes lit up. 
Even that is progress from years back. This might sound weird but years back he’d be obliviousness to even noticing the closet being open or noticing his fav toys in it. 
So the fact that he took an interest and parked his butt right outside the open closet door and started grabbing toys is a bit of progress. 
He noticed this one toy that he used to love. 

He never ever played with it appropriately. He would just turn it on & off and touch all the buttons…for hours…
Anyway he gravitated towards it, but alas it was broken…probably from one to many throws across the room by his majesty over the years. 
I changed the batteries and yep it was definitely broken. 
But Kyle kept handing it to me & wifey as if to say “turn it on, dude. make it work!”
(which is something he never would have done years ago)
So wifey asked if I could find it online. I searched amazon and they don’t make it anymore but I found it used on eBay. 
And for $20 including shipping it was at my house 4 days later. 
I know what some of you are thinking. “$20 for a used toy that probably cost $20 when it was new 8 years ago?!  Are you crazy…or rich?!”
And the answer is… No. I’m usually a cheapskate. And it hurt me to spend $20 on a used toy, but wifey’s always saying “family give him money for Christmas and his birthday cuz they don’t know what to get him…this toy is exactly what that money is for!”
And I hate it when she’s right…(which is more often than I like to admit)…but in this case she was right…
So 4 days later this toy arrives. I add new batteries and it works and the king was thrilled. 
But as with many things with Kyle he gets overly obsessed with it…so we have to take it away…
And like the old days id take it away and put it up high on top of our “hutch”

But in the old days he wouldn’t notice where I “hid” things. It was literally out of sight, out of mind back in the old days. 
But now he noted where I put it. 

And now when he wants it. He’ll take our hand and bring us to the hutch to get it for him. 
Or he’ll try to get it himself. 
And he’s getting so tall that a few more inches and he can jump and reach it himself!

Progress & growth!
That’s about it folks. He still doesn’t play with it appropriately at all. He still throws it across the room. (I should’ve bought 2!). But he knows what he wants. He knows where we hide it. And he knows how to ask for it. 
Progress & growth!
The only new problem that we didn’t have to worry about years ago?
Look at what this toy does…

Hope all those fast blinking & flashing lights don’t induce seizures in epilepsy boy. We didn’t have to worry about that years back. 
Oh well. I guess like with most things related to autism one could say that the seizure worry is a case of 3 steps forward & 2 steps back…but by my calculations that means that he’s still 1 step ahead!
Progress & growth!
The end


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Written by

Frank Campagna

I’m a 48 year old neurotypical dad with a 14 year old son with severe, non-verbal autism & epilepsy. I created this blog to rant about autism & epilepsy while celebrating my son who I affectionately call “the king” :-).

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18 People Replies to “How Finding An Old Toddler Toy Shows Progress & Growth In My Autistic Son”

  1. Love…just love this blog! My son is "sorta" starting to do this BUT still plays with the toys inappropriately BUT I still see it as progress…he remembered that "that toy used to be my favorite toy to beat the crap out of"! Hey…progress in my eyes 🙂

  2. You and your wife are doing an amazing job raising your king. I am so impressed how hand you are with your son. I don't usually see fathers doing that especially if the child has special needs, but you…you even went out of your way to make this blog about your day to day journey. This is so inspiring for other parents too. God bless all autism parents (including me and my hubby!) =)

  3. I can still feel the feeling of finding my old toys, it's just incredible, but at the same time make you feel nostalgic.

  4. I think there is a lovely window of time between when your baby can walk and when your baby gets closer to two and has more of a "my way or the high way" mentality. carol cline start potty training ebook

  5. Anonymous

    My 12 year old son loves the ABC letters, and sesame street youtube clips Is more like a fixation along with trains. So is the combination of fixations with the fact that he is younger emotionally, socially than his chronological age. He may be interested in toddler toys if they have push buttons or opening and close sequences.

  6. I love this post, I know exactly what you mean! Kyle looks lovely,
    Thank you for sharing xx

  7. I was said to be hyperlexic as a kid. I had that fascination with letters and numbers and I always was verbal from 10 months on. That's how Aspies like me are. Since Kyle's point is better now, maybe he could be tested with a letterboard like Lisa's son has.

  8. I don't believe it is a random thing that the King likes a letter toy. I'm telling you, our non-verbal kids love letters and symbols. Most autistic people, including non-verbals, are hyperlexic but you wouldn't know it because they can't tell you. I believe he is trying to tell you he wants to communicate but he needs to learn how. Don't believe the bad rap FC and RPM get from so called experts. You may be surprised that it can actually work. We use RPM and will investigate FC soon too because we want our son to learn independent typing too (right now he communicates pointing to letters on a letterboard but can't outright type). The RPM website is and the FC site is
    I also have a blog about my son's progress using RPM at

  9. Anonymous

    You could have been writing about my daughter on so many points in this 🙂 Yes we have bought used toddler toys to replace the thrown old favorite ones no longer sold in stores, yes we have that same toy you wrote about and it is slowly not working today she brought it to me to make it work, and just this week she dragged a chair over to climb up on to get something I had "hidden" up high first time she has noticed and tried to get something like that. Nice to not feel alone in these accomplishments and growth of our sweethearts. Thanks for the post.

  10. I drive my friends an family nuts sometimes when I get stuck on a stimmy toy back in the day had a taking calculator the school had to keep sound off cuse I stimming of a number sn driving them crazy an I think did stuff like that with my key board they had in the 80 I laughing it was funny

  11. Anonymous

    Same here AD….my son notices..grabs my hand and pulls me to toys etc I hide from him..I even hide chips and other food but he finds and looks for those by himself…..does 'kyle' ever get together with as kid just like him and if so what happens?

  12. Anonymous

    Our kids love what they love. My son had a leap frog version of that same toy. He would obsess over it , press the same buttons over and over. laugh at the noises it made and of course throw it. It would eventually end up in a closet or on top of our china cabinet. We would also rotate his toys, so what is old becomes new again. So I can relate to the struggle that we face with making our kids happy, even if it drives us crazy. My son is 17 and still loves elmo. His was lost in a house fire. He talked about his melted elmo and everytime he saw one he appeared sad in his own way. Thanks to amazon we were able to replace his beloved elmo, much to the rest of my family's shagrin. Oh well our kids love what they love no matter how old they are and sometimes we have to replace out of date toys.

  13. Our 10 year old loves that same toy! We have been lucky to find "replacements" at local thrift stores, where we can usually find "matches" for all his beloved toddler toys. At one point he had an all-time high of nine singing "doggies", some purchased for as low as $0.84! Gotta love Value World in these parts. As these toys go, this one is at least interesting enough to me. Each letter plays a song that begins with that letter! Some classic oldies, too! My challenge is to get my boy to try letters other than "M" and to let the song play for more than a nanosecond before he pushes it again….and again….and again….and again. But it is all still music to my ears. Thanks for the post!

  14. I was in high school before I no longer played with toys. Smart, but immature's how I was as a kid. At 24, I'm teenish in some ways, but grown-up in others.

  15. Anonymous

    My Autistic 4 year old loves his Rock & Roll Elmo. He wants us to squeeze the hand so he can hear it sing. He will keep that up for hours so like you, we hide it! Your post is so true, small progress.. I hid it in a cabinet in the laundry room once and I went to that cabinet to get something else, he was beside me and he saw it. He started jumping up and down to play with it so i was "forced" to let him play with it for a little while. I hid it somewhere else later and he grabbed my hand and walked me to the cabinet, when I opened it to show him it wasn't there he wouldn't leave and kept reaching for the cabinet.

    Your post reminded me of that

  16. Anonymous

    I have a typical son and a severe ASD son. Our victories are so different for both. We use to hide things up high, he figured out you get a chair. Not cool he is climbing on the counter tops but the mom in me is proud he figured it out. My son does not play with toys. December I took him to toy isle to look at the toddler toys. He usually pushes a button here and there but he actually took interest in a leap frog toy similar to that one. So I bought it! Thanks for always sharing your stories. Most people would not be as open as you are.

  17. Anonymous

    I belong to quite a few FB buy and sell groups that are catered to baby and childrens items only. It might be worth looking to see if your area has these type groups. Basically somebody posts an ISO (In Search Of) OFFER or item FOR SALE with a brief description of what they are looking for, selling or giving away for free with their location. Then people comment on the post saying they are interested. Pick up details with addresses etc are done VIA PM. You may be able to find many items such as the one you just purchased from Ebay quite a bit cheaper and you'll be able to pick it up faster. Its also a great way to sell or pass on items that are no longer needed to another family that may be looking. Just a thought…