School can be tough for a lot of kids, especially when they don’t fit in with everyone else.
We tend to assume that most children have at least a few friends to play with during recess or outside of class, but sadly, some don’t even have one. Bob Cornelius from Rockaway, New Jersey, was faced with this reality when he went to his son’s back-to-school night.
Eleven-year-old Christopher is on the autism spectrum, so his dad was likely well-aware that he has difficulties with social interaction. But when he saw Christopher’s answer on an assignment asking who some of his friends were, he was heartbroken by what his child had written.
“Never have five letters cut so deep, and they weren’t even directed at me….It was just an overly simplistic statement that spoke volumes,” Bob said.
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He decided to address the issue in a heartfelt Facebook post with the goal of influencing others to be kind and accepting of people they see as being different.
“Christopher’s brothers have had many, many sleepovers over the
years, obviously in front of him, and it has not gone unnoticed. ‘Can I have a sleepover?’ Christopher has asked. ‘Sure, buddy….with whom?’ As a response, he would flap his arms
and stim instead of answering. He didn’t have an answer because he
didn’t have a name. Because he didn’t have a friend. He’s never had a ‘real’ friend. Ever. He just turned 11. And because he’s had no friends….there was no one to invite,” he said.
“The only solution I can come up with is to share this with you and ask that you have a conversation with your kids. Please tell them that children with special needs understand far more than we give them credit for.”
“They notice when others exclude them. They notice when they are teased behind their back (a lot of times ‘behind their back’ is right in front of them because they think the ‘different’ child doesn’t understand). But mostly they are very much in tune when they are treated differently from everyone else. Trust me when I tell you this hurts them, even if it’s not obvious to you and me.”