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Charmin bear charms autistic boy

May 16, 2013 at 10:41 AM ET

This is a story about a boy, a bear and bathroom tissue. When a giant corporation took time out to send a token of affection to a small admirer, it made a family’s day.

First, meet 9-year-old Cash'an Simpson, a happy, easygoing kid who also faces some big challenges, his mom Grace Clark said.

Diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when he was 2, Cash'an has problems communicating and socializing. He talks very little, he doesn’t play with other kids and he fixates on certain things, Clark said.

Enter the Charmin bear – the cuddly cartoon logo featured prominently on packages of Charmin toilet paper and in the company’s commercials. While so many aspects of life make Cash'an withdraw into his own world, something about that bear speaks to the little boy. Even his family has a hard time explaining it.

Grace Clark and son
Courtesy Grace Clark
Grace Clark says she saw her son's fascination for the Charmin bear start when he was 4.

“Autistic children are very particular, very precise in the details that they take in,” Clark, who lives in Manchester, Conn., told TODAY Moms.

“It’s got to be something about that bear that is just staying with him and I honestly don’t know what that precise detail is. I can’t ask him because he can’t verbalize it for me.”

She still remembers the moment when she realized Cash'an was fascinated by the logo. They were at Target one day when he was 4 and he suddenly bolted away from her and ran to the bathroom tissue section.

“This little kid is looking at this big aisle full of toilet paper rolls with a bear, and he started putting all these packages in my cart that I did not want. And then he climbed in the cart and he looked at them,” Clark said.

It’s been five years now and Cash'an continues to be transfixed by the bear. If there’s a commercial for the product playing, he’ll run to the TV set to watch it, Clark said. He rarely speaks, but he knows how to vocalize “Charmin bear,” and asks to see the cartoon when he’s at the computer.

Taking note of his affinity, Clark has tried to introduce him to other furry creatures popular with kids, like the Bear in the Big Blue House, but it’s no contest. So Clark has given up analyzing Cash'an’s fixation and has been blogging about it instead.

care package
Courtesy Grace Clark
Cash'an Simpson checks out the care package sent by Charmin. The gift included a rare stuffed Charmin bear toy.

It turns out the company was watching. As it monitored social media, Charmin came across Clark's posts and recently sent a care package to the family, complete with a rare stuffed Charmin bear for Cash'an.

“We were touched by his story… and we hoped it would make Cash'an smile,” said Laura Dressman, a spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble, the parent company of Charmin.

“We don't normally give away stuffed animal-versions of the bears, but we did happen to have a few on hand. We were all so moved by his affection towards them that we could not think of a better person to send one to.”

Clark said she was overwhelmed by the gesture. Cash'an just lit up, she noted, picking up the contents of the package and staring at them.

“I didn’t think that he could smile on command but… we pointed the camera at him and said smile, and he actually looked at the camera and smiled. And I thought I was going to fall off my chair,” Clark said.

“For them to take the time and send something that might make him happy, even for a moment, just meant so much to me.”

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