Thieves slammed for stealing lifeline computer from Sunderland special school

Celia Wright, head of Sunningdale School
Celia Wright, head of Sunningdale School
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A specialist computer used by youngsters with serious illnesses has been stolen in a burglary at a Sunderland special school.

It happened at Sunningdale School in Shaftoe Road in the Springwell area between 7.30pm on Sunday, November 8 and 7am on Monday, November 9

The stolen computer had been loaned to the school by the Regional Communication Aid Service and is used for young children with serious multi-sensory and life debilitating illnesses who rely on augmentative and alternative communication.

It is a Tobii Dynavox i12.

Neighbourhood Inspector Lisa Laverick said: “The computer, which looks similar to a tablet, had been loaned to the school and was being trialled by one of the young children who goes there, the child had been using it as an aid to communicate and it really is heart-breaking to hear it has been stolen.

“The computer is really not much use to anyone as a stand-alone computer device so it is most probably pretty worthless to whoever has stolen it.

“However, it is a lifeline to the young child who was using it and I’d urge anyone who has any information about where it is or about the burglary to please get in contact with us so the computer can be returned to the school.”

Sunningdale School headteacher Celia Wright said: “The children within Sunningdale specialist pre-school provision are aged between 2 and 3 years and are some of the most vulnerable with severe learning difficulties physical and medical needs.

“Many of the children also have life limiting conditions. The Eye Gaze that has been stolen is a vital part of enabling a child to communicate.

“Although the machine looks like a tablet or iPad it is a specialist piece of equipment that allows the child to use their eyes to communicate by looking at a picture on a screen to let adults know that they need a drink something to eat or are in pain.

“Without this device children will now be let unable to communicate their basic needs to adults around them with adults helpless in being able to interpret the wishes of the child.”

Anyone with information about the burglary is asked to contact Northumbria Police on 101 ext 69191 quoting reference 131 091115 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.