Weatherford special needs student Lance Newby reacts to getting his Dynavox communication device back. (CBSDFW.com photo by Joel Thomas)

WEATHERFORD (CBSDFW.COM) – A Weatherford High School student and his family are expressing their gratitude after an interactive computer that allowed the 21-year-old to communicate was mysteriously returned.

Two weeks ago, someone took Lance Newby’s Dynavox, a special computer that was his only way to speak with the world.

“It was Lance’s box,” Regina Harris, Lance’s mother, said to her son. “Was it anybody else’s?”

Lance shook his head.

“You don’t think about how much you use that device until it’s gone,” Harris said.

The device went missing Jan. 4 from the school cafeteria at Weatherford High School.

The school ran the original CBS 11 story on its in-house video channel, and students quickly reacted to the news, said Weatherford High School Principal Lynn Pool.

“The kids kind of had a little bit of righteous indignation about it,” Pool said. “How can we help?”

As teachers, students and staff searched for Lance’s Dynavox, the family suffered from the lack of communication.

“Lance couldn’t tell us what he wanted, what he needed; simple, basic things,” Harris said.

Soon the story went national. Offers to help replace the $9,000 machine poured in from around the country.

“It amazes me as to what people want to do,” Harris said.

Finally, after a week that seemed like an eternity to the family, whoever took the device suddenly returned it.

“I think somebody found it in the cafeteria, and somebody found it just leaned up against a trash can or something like that,” Pool said.

“His teacher and Lance were on a speaker phone and they were like, ‘Woo-hoo! We found it!” Harris said.

The device was missing a sunshade and, more importantly, a memory chip that had three year’s worth of touchscreen shortcuts allowing Lance to communicate more easily.

But the device still worked in its most basic form and Lance was ecstatic. He rubbed his hands together impatiently as the device powered up.

He was anxious to do something he couldn’t do the first time a CBS11 crew showed up to report the story ¬¬¬¬– introduce himself.

After some excited work on the Dynavox’s touch screen a clear, male voice said through the speakers, “Lance Newby.”

Lance sprang back smiling and clapping.

Once again, Lance can tell his mom what he wants to eat with a touch of a button.

“Chicken,” the device said.

He can tell people how he’s feeling, what he’s allergic to, or even just say hello.

“For that to be given is the greatest gift they could give,” Harris said. “They’ve given him his voice back. And that’s everything to me.”

“Anytime something like this happens you look at somebody with new eyes and new appreciation,” Pool said.

Harris said the person taking Lance’s device was mean but probably not malicious. She thinks someone probably thought it was a computer or gaming device.

“I’ll never hear Lance say, ‘Mamma I love you’ coming from his throat,” Harris said with tears streaming down her face.

“With his Dynavox he can tell me that all the time.”