Nine-year-old Lowestoft schoolboy is calling out for old phones

Tom Harper, 9, is collecting mobile phones to exhange for an iPad for a girl with autism in Walbersw

Tom Harper, 9, is collecting mobile phones to exhange for an iPad for a girl with autism in Walberswick.Tom also has autisim and has already collected 185 mobile phones to get his own iPad. - Credit: Picture: Nick Butcher

Technology and fashion seem to move so fast these days that mobile phones are 'out of date' and destined for the bin almost as soon as they are out of the box.

But a nine-year-old Lowestoft schoolboy is putting the unwanted devices to good use by exchanging them for the latest computers through a charity that supports families affected by autism.

Tom Harper, who suffers from autism and attends The Ashley School Academy Trust, in Lowestoft, has already received an iPad from the Hearts and Minds Challenge after collecting 185 unwanted phones. He is now hoping to secure a second one for a young woman with autism in his home village of Walberswick.

Since Tom decided to help her out, his whole family have pitched in to support him and donations have even been flooding in from supporters abroad.

Tom's mum, Marie Ruth, said: 'Tom doesn't know this girl very well, but because he is so happy with his own iPad and because it has helped him so much, he wants to do something for her.'

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Tom is at the low end of the autistic spectrum, meaning his symptoms are among the most severe. He also has epilepsy and mild cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to help keep him safe in public. However, Hearts and Minds says that using iPads can help autistic children work on receptive and expressive language, fine motor skills, problem solving skills and joint attention.

Mrs Ruth said. 'I've definitely seen an improvement in Tom's spelling and numbers and matching things since he's had it.'

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Tom was left heartbroken before Christmas when his own much-loved iPad was stolen from his wheelchair during a family trip to Euro Disney. Upon hearing the news, film director Richard Curtis and his author wife Emma Freud, who live in Walberswick, came to the rescue and replaced the stolen computer.

Mrs Ruth said: 'Stealing something from a child's wheelchair is pretty appalling, but we're so grateful to Richard and Emma. It's such a kind and generous thing they've done. We want to thank everybody in the village who has supported Tom.'

Anyone who would like to support Tom's collection can take their unwanted mobile phones to the Co-operative Supermarket in Walberswick, where Mrs Ruth works.

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