For about 10 seconds, Bret Harte Elementary School student Kyle Lin stared intently at a packet of brightly colored silicone tubular building pieces stored in a plastic sealable bag.
Kyle, one of 18 students in the school’s second-year Language Enriched Autism Program, or LEAP, brightened as his plans morphed into quick action.
The 6-year-old opened the packet and built a 12-inch straw, which he dunked into a nearby water cup and drank with delight.
“Maybe the most amazing thing about these products are all the uses,” LEAP parent Lisa Casas said. “They’re so versatile and so helpful.”
Casas’ friend and former Burroughs High School classmate Amy Leinbach, a Huntington Beach resident, donated a dozen Build-A-Straw adjustable and reusable straw packets and 200 ScrubBee hand-and-body scrubbers to LEAP two weeks ago.
“There are two aspects I think about with my products: practicality and comfort,” said Leinbach, owner of Big Bee Little Bee. “The straws just hit the market ... so I haven’t had the feedback that I’ve had with the scrubbers yet, which has been great.”
Casas is a believer in the ScrubBee, a hand-held silicone-based scrubber resembling a beehive sitting atop a honeycomb.
Casas’ daughter Aubree, 5, is perhaps not dissimilar from other children in disliking and trying to avoid baths. Aubree’s attitude changed, however, thanks to the scrubber.
“For kids that are on the [autism] spectrum, it takes awhile to get an understanding, even me as a parent, that she needs to have a certain object all the time,” Casas said. “She needs a soothing object and, for her, it’s been the scrubber. She literally won’t take a bath without it.”
Aubree walked over to the LEAP kindergarten and first-grade classroom sink and washed her hands, using a donated scrubber, without fuss.
“I don’t know if Amy knows what this means for me,” said Casas, who fought back tears.
Leinbach, a former special-education teacher at Sun Valley Middle School, said her entrepreneurial inspiration comes from her 4-year-old daughter, Marlo.
Leinbach recalled the difficulty her preschooler had in bathing using traditional wash clothes and sponges, which led to the creation of the ScrubBee.
As for the straws, Leinbach said she was tired of using “disgusting” restaurant scissors to cut the size of plastic straws for her daughter.
“My straws will help with the variable cup heights, from kids’ cups to traditional cups, even to adult sizes, which some restaurants give to kids,” Leinbach said.
Students in Megan Rauch’s LEAP class built towers with the straws, while some played with the scrubbers and others washed their hands.
“It seems to be, for those who do get very energetic, a calming influence,” Rauch said. “It has great uses, too, to help them wash.”
The donation also was touching to Martha Walter, Harte’s principal.
“I have the sweetest kids ever,” Walter said. “Just the way they automatically gravitated toward the scrubber and used it and to see their faces showed me how excited they were.
“That’s what makes the gift special.”