Dad overwhelmed by response to autistic son’s answer on school project

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  • The father of an autistic boy has been overwhelmed by the supportive messages he’s received after sharing his son’s heart breaking letter.

    Bob Cornelius, a dad from New Jersey, USA was shocked and upset when he read his 11 year-old son Christopher’s school project, which said he had no friends.

    After visiting his son’s school to see the children’s latest project, which showed all the pupil’s favourite things in life, Bob was devastated by Christopher’s answer.

    Christopher, who has autism had written ‘no one’ when asked to name some of his friends, and Bob was heartbroken, prompting him to write an open letter to Facebook about befriending children that have special needs.

    However, since Bob’s Facebook post of his son’s project went viral, the family has received an overwhelming number of messages of support.

    Taking to Facebook again, Bob showed the mountains of mail, which have been sent to the family.

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    The postman will have been busy, as supportive letters, cards and gifts continue to flood in. Bob thanked everyone on Facebook for their positive reaction to his story, saying: ‘I’m so grateful that people are having this conversation, and I am humbled by the outpouring of support.’

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    Facebook users have also commented on the posts, sharing their own stories and praising Bob for raising awareness.

    One user said: ‘Wish we lived closer to where you are. My 11 year old daughter with ADHD would love to have a friend to play with. I understand what you’re going through. As parents we want our children’s lives to be filled with happiness and joy. Some things we cannot control though (like other peoples actions or views) you are making some headway on opening peoples minds and hearts. Thank you for bringing this subject to the forefront. God bless you.’

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    Bob even shared the story of a police officer who visited on his day off to play football with Christopher. He said: ‘I’d like to thank the kind officer from the Union County Sheriff’s Office for stopping by today to give Christopher some patches and to offer to play soccer with him. As he was in full uniform, I asked him if he was on his way to work. He said, no…it’s just that kids like the uniform. It was his day off.’

    In Bob’s original post, he added that did not notice his son’s answer at first glance. After seeing each child’s card was filled out with their favourite songs, foods and friends, Bob took a quick snap of his son’s project before returning home where he took a closer look and noticed what was written in the ‘friends’ category.

    In his original post, Bob wrote of the difficulty he watches his son face in feeling alone, ‘He’s never had a friend. Ever. He just turned eleven. And I don’t have a solution. I don’t have an answer. The reality is that I have to rely on the compassion of others to be incredibly understanding in order just to sit next to him, attempt to engage him, and make him feel included’.

    He referenced amazing stories that have shown how children with special needs can be incorporated, for example the Florida State Football player that ate with a child who sat on their own, ‘That’s what made the story great….it wasn’t staged…it was just a real moment of human kindness.The follow up to that story was that the boy no longer ate alone; that the other kids NOW were sitting with him and patting him on the back. That boy now had “friends”,B and everything was right with the world’.

    But also spoke out that children need better teaching on inclusion because ‘if that football player had not sat down next to that child, and if it hadn’t become a national news story, that kid would still be sitting by himself today’.

    He urged parents to see this as an important lesson to teach their children, ‘they were clearly not taught to embrace and accept the differences of others. Not by their teachers, which would have been nice, had they thought to do so, but by their parents. I don’t mean to imply that parents that don’t have this conversation with their kids are bad people, but only that somewhere in between working, soccer practice, and homework, it never occurred to them to have this particular conversation’.

    Bob finished his post by saying, ‘I’m not so naive that I think this post is going to change the world. But, if, by sharing this, I can make you think about having a conversation with your children about empathy, about going out of their way to include those that are different from everybody else, especially if it goes against the group mentality, especially if it’s not socially poplar (I’m not so old that I don’t remember that this takes bravery…bravery to break from the confines of whet your friends think is cool in the middle and high school worlds), then I will feel like Christopher’s voice has been heard’.

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    But wonderfully, Bob’s post HAS changed the world and has gone viral, being shared over 51k times.

    Bob and has family have since received letters, cards, gifts and offers of friendship from around America and beyond.