HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Landon Smith is turning 10 this year, and instead of asking for gifts for himself, he wanted to bring back his donation drive, Landon’s Puzzle Pieces, for the third year.
Landon has Autism. His parents knew little about the spectrum before his diagnosis. They say sensory-friendly items have made a huge difference in making the world a little more comfortable for Landon.
“For him, it’s not fun for him to go through these meltdowns or acts of aggression so to have these items just really helps keep him moving forward,” Landon’s dad, Chris Smith told News 19.
For the now 10-year-old, he says those toys help him unlock his superpowers.
Three years ago, he decided he wanted to help other kids get their superpowers too, so he and his dad, Chris, mom, Lauren and little sister, Brianna, started Landon’s Puzzle Pieces.
“I don’t want kids to be bored, angry and meltdown,” Landon explained.
“It’s exciting to see Landon understand more of it, see the impact he’s having with it and fully grasp that… it’s really been a lot of fun,” Chris said.
They select a number of items and create an Amazon wish list (see here). On it, are items that have helped Landon through the years feel more comfortable and avoid a sensory overload.
“The feeling of rescue is so pivotal with items we know help him,” Lauren Smith told News 19.
All of the items donated will go to the Autism Support of Alabama and their local networking group, Making Connections, in Madison County.
“They make sure these items go to the families that need them, who may not be able to spend that extra $100 for the trampoline because in this economy it’s not the greatest so every dollar counts,” Chris said.
Even the smallest of items can change the way a child with autism feels in what a neurotypical person sees as a typical environment, and Chris and Lauren say they want to give as many families those tools as they can.
“Items like [a decompression ball,] though simple, can be the difference between a full-on meltdown in an aisle and a child getting back to the car to decompress,” Lauren said. “Being able to hand items like this to families that may not realize they need it. may not be able to afford them, is just a humanitarian act of love that we love doing every year.”
It’s something they do year after year because they know the impact some of these items, like a handheld decompression ball, a trampoline, or a set of headphones, can have on a child and the family as a whole.
“[Autism] isn’t going away,” Chris said. “It’s going to be a part of a lot of families’ lives forever so to be able to help families get some of these tools after they get a diagnosis, so now what?”
For this third year and his 10th birthday, Landon said he wants his donation drive to be the biggest year yet.
“I want my birthday to be 10 times bigger!” Landon said.
Donations will be accepted through the month of October. They can be delivered to an address listed with the Amazon wish list, or mailed to:
120 W Dublin Drive, Suite 103
Madison, AL 35758
All donations are tax-deductible. Once a gift is purchased, be sure to make a note with your email address so Chris can send a receipt by mail, if requested.