Gavin Joseph has had Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, since he was 3 years old. Being on the spectrum means that he often has trouble socially. As typical for a person with Asperger's, Gavin has to learn social cues and what are considered "normal" ways to respond emotionally to others. As his mom, Cortnie Stone, wrote in a Facebook post:
"[Gavin] can appear rude, impatient, 'weird,' detached, or uninterested, but this is not intentional. He can also be kind, generous, and forgiving, but even this can appear awkward at times because some of it is learned and not always natural."
Sadly, not everyone understands this about those with autism and on Friday, June 26, his mom shared in the same Facebook post that another teen took it upon himself to bully and beat him. But it's Gavin that had the last word — and it was full of love and grace.
Since posting late June, Stone's post has gotten over 900 shares and over 100 comments of support. Mom is proud, too.
"I am so proud of him, and I hope a lesson will come of this to all that hear about it," she wrote.
Though the teens called him weird and one even choked and punched him, then left him on the ground to "teach him a lesson," Gavin didn't press charges.
What he did instead was both brilliant and kind.
He asked as part of the bullies' community service that they learn about disabilities by writing a paper on the subject and by watching a 20 minute video that he made himself.
Gavin suffered a black eye, bruised esophagus and concussion, but his mom reports he's recovering just fine.
This isn't the first case of a minor on the autism spectrum being brutalized. Last September during the viral "Ice Bucket Challenge" trend, a group of kids had drenched a boy with autism in bodily fluids — and abuse is all too common.
Sadly, 65 percent of parents of children with autism reported their child being bullied and 47 percent reported their child having been physically hit.
Gavin's mom (and Gavin) hope her message can help raise awareness and educate.
"If you are reading this, I hope you talk to your teens, tell them about disabilities you can't see, teach them to be tolerant of people that are different, teach them that if they continuously see someone alone that maybe it is not their choice to be alone, remind them to ask questions first and get to know one another," Stone wrote.