A gang of bullies beat up teenager Gavin Joseph, who has autism, for being different. Yet the only thing truly different about him was his response.
Rather than pressing charges against his attackers, who labelled him "weird" and "creepy", Gavin produced a 20 minute video for them to watch and learn about his condition - Asperger's syndrome.
After bullies tricked the Illinois teenager into a "friendly meeting", Gavin was then surrounded by strangers and aggressively choked and punched until he "learnt his lesson".
As a result of his attack, Gavin suffered mild concussion, a bruised oesophagus, a fractured nose and an eye hematoma. As well as producing a home video for them to watch, Gavin requested for his bullies' community service to be disabilities-related.
Gavin's mother Cortnie Stone shared his story on Facebook, saying: "We found out that Gavin had Asperger's & ADHD when he was 3 yrs old, and growing up, we've had as many wonderful times as we've had difficult/frustrating times. You can't "see" Asperger's since it's not a visible disability, it's a social/emotional one that makes relationships difficult to attain.
"It doesn't prohibit his movement, or ability to walk, but it makes everyday interactions with people very difficult. He 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.
"Keeping longtime friends is tough because of his tendency to isolate yourself. Gavin has spent years learning what society thinks is appropriate and not appropriate, and so he doesn't offend anyone or stick out in social situations. Being a teenager with Asperger's is tough because all the sudden people around you are consistently "breaking" all the social do's and don'ts you've spent years learning.
"On Thursday night, some kids were talking about how "it's weird" that he is always by himself, attending events alone and watching people, and it was "creepy" how he wanted to be friends with people he didn't know. On Friday night, another kid that overheard that conversation decided to take matters into his own hands and become judge and jury, and this is the result of that.
"He didn't ask questions, didn't get to know Gavin, never met him, and didn't give him a chance to leave. He was called to meet someone, surrounded by people he didn't know, choked, punched, and left laying on the pavement so he would "learn his lesson"."
Stone continued: "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.
"Gavin is fine. He has a mild concussion, a bruised esophagus, the tip of his nose fractured, and hematoma in his eye, but nothing permanent. He did not press charges, but requested their community service be disability related, that they write a paper on Asperger's, and that they watch a 20 min video statement he taped while their families were present so they could see the damage they did and hear the event from his perspective. I am so proud of him, and I hope a lesson will come of this to all that hear about it."
Ambitious about Autism is the UK's national charity for children and young people with autism. Jolanta Lasota, the organisation's CEO, commended Gavin for his courageous response: “It is very brave of Gavin to respond in such a thoughtful way as awareness and education of learning disabilities is crucial to hopefully stop events like this occurring again."
She added: “92% of parents of young adults on the autism spectrum felt that their child had been bullied at school or college. Simply being different can make you a target and therefore vulnerable to attackers, which is why awareness is so important."
Advice for autistic youngsters suffering with bullying can be found on the Ambitious about Autism website.Suggest a correction