June 11, 2023


We Bring Good Things to Life

Middletown mom turns thefts of autistic son’s gifts into teachable moment

MIDDLETOWN — The mother of an 11-year-old with special needs is appealing to whomever stole her son’s birthday gifts from her mailbox twice in mid-July to come forward and own up to the acts.

Melissa Burgess is calling the individual a “postal pillager.”

During the first incident, a handheld gaming console, gift card and birthday greeting meant for Aidan were taken from the postbox outside their home.

Burgess filed a police report. Authorities confirmed they are handling the incident as a larceny. Burgess recently installed a $20 camera she got from the discount bin at Walmart.

Among the items taken were a $75 Amazon gift card from his grandmother, then, a few days later, a Nintendo 3DS Burgess had bought.

Burgess had just allowed her son to have one of the devices. “He said, ‘Mom, I’m going to be 11,’” she said, laughing at the thought.

The box says the device is for those 8 and up. “I finally told him he was old enough to use the 3D one, because I didn’t like the idea,” she said.

The mom had received notification the console was delivered. However, it never arrived.

Burgess wrote to The Press, about the person who who took the items, “Perhaps this was easy for you to do, because you see the inanimate mailbox as your victim. Maybe your personal circumstances led you to believe that people who have the means to receive packages have undeserved disposable income,”

Aidan is on the autism spectrum and he relies on a rigid schedule , his mother said. He had some trouble during distance learning these past few months due to the pandemic, and was looking forward to his birthday as a “light at the end of the tunnel,” Burgess said.

She said her son made “leaps and bounds” attending a behavioral program at Wilbert Snow School, where he just “graduated.” Aidan hopes to attend sixth grade at Keigwin Middle School.

But COVID-19 has “decimated Aidan’s sense of normalcy, routine and achievement,” said Burgess, who marked his achievement with video meetings and drive-through celebrations. “My little guy muscled through conflicting feelings of pride and disappointment.”

One tool Burgess uses is a white board to break Aidan’s day into chunks so he knows what to expect all the time. “He’s very goal-orientated.”

Before Aiden went to Snow, he was very quiet and reserved, “not engaging with other kids. We can’t stop him from talking now,” Burgess said.

Her hope is to connect with the thief by giving a face to the victim. “If somebody said ‘I did this and I don’t have it anymore,’ and says sorry or offers to rake my leaves,” it would satisfy her, said Burgess, who holds no animosity toward whomever stole the gifts.

“If we are all judged on the worst thing we’ve ever done in our life, we would not be the happiest people,” she told Aidan.

Burgess was pleased to find out there has been an outpouring of goodwill from the community as well as friends and family. She showed some of the Facebook posts to Aidan, who told her he felt special.

“I’m still upset that this happened, but I feel like it was so wonderful for him to see that for every jerk in the world there’s at least one person who is kind. It was also a great opportunity for him to feel a sense of connection and community, Burgess said.