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Communication device stolen from girl with special needs

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OOLTEWAH, TN (WRCB) -

A devastated Hamilton County mom is asking for the public's help after thieves broke into her car and stole a special device her daughter uses to communicate. The unique paperback book was left in the family's unlocked car overnight when thieves hit their neighborhood. It is the only way the White family is able to communicate with their daughter.

Calista White has Rett Syndrome. It is a neurological disorder that affects the way the brain develops.  Now the family is begging the person who has the device to return it.

Seventeen year old Calista White isn't able to speak. She lets her mom know when she's happy, joking around, or frustrated through her communication book. “Pictures stay in the same place. She indicates what she wants using Yes or No and we are able to go through the book to express herself, her basic wants and needs,” said Calista’s mom Joni White.

It is the only way she can communicate with her family.  “Set of picture symbols that helps her to put words together to make phrases.”

Before school, the White family realized items from their van were stolen, including the 55 page custom made booklet.  “She is without that voice, without her language.”

Her mom calls it a life changing communication device. It is programmed specifically for Calista’s needs. “Because of the way it is printed and made with special modifications for Calista we went along over the last several years, lots of special touches to it. It is not an electronic file to reprint.”

It’s something that makes the teenager feel like everyone else. Over the last three years, she's made miraculous progress and enjoys learning new phrases. “It is kind of like teaching a foreign language, but we are teaching her PODD instead of French or German.”

Now all this mother wants is to continue her daughter's progress and get her only way of communication back home. “I don't want to ask any questions of them. I just really want her communication system back so we can use that and she can a have voice.”

Other items that were stolen from the car were found dumped throughout the neighborhood.

If you know where the communication device may be you are asked to contact the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office at 423-209-7000.

Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.

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