Company that helps children with autism targeted by thieves

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Learning Arts helps children with autism and they're now working to replace dozens of tablet computers which were stolen in Merced this weekend. (KFSN)

A company that helps children with autism is now working to replace dozens of tablet computers which were stolen in Merced this weekend.

Those tablets were supposed to be given to the children to help track their progress and keep them motivated, but it took just minutes for thieves to ruin those plans.

Shattered glass still covers the inside of the company minivan after someone broke the side window to steal nearly everything inside. It happened in the parking lot of the Black Bear Diner while staff members from the Learning Arts office in Roseville were eating dinner Sunday night. They had brought about 45 Verizon Samsung tablets to hand out in Merced.

"What's really bad is I walked past it," Erin Kniesel with Learning Arts said. "We were just talking and I got in, and, of course, we felt cold air and then heard noise and were like who's got a window down, and then we turned around and it was like oh my gosh, and the first thing that comes to mind is the tablets because I knew we had those in there."

Kniesel says the tablets were gone, along with three iPhones, a projector like this one, and a brand-new projector screen. The tablets were supposed to be used during this two-day training session for employees at the Merced Fairgrounds, and then they would be given to children with autism who are part of the learning arts program.

"Some of our patients don't have the finances to be able to afford things like this, and it's a huge deal," said Irving Hernandez with Learning Arts "Tablets are very beneficial in our world today, especially for our kiddos."

Police estimate the value of the stolen items at about $7,000, but staff members say the tablets are a priceless tool when it comes to helping the children they serve.

Anyone who would like to help replace the tablets can contact Learning A.R.T.S. at:

E-Mail: or 916-729-3098
Related Topics:
newsautismmerced countymercedburglaryMerced
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