It breaks a parent’s heart when their child feels excluded or has no one to go on a lunch break with. That’s exactly how Bob Cornelius, of New Jersey, felt when he came across his son’s answer to one question in his assignment.
On that particular day in September 2016, Bob attended his then-11-year-old son Christopher’s back-to-school night. He expected to meet teachers and maybe have a nice chat with the other parents in attendance. Instead, what Bob saw came as a heartbreaking surprise.
As Bob walked through the school, he saw all the children’s recent projects posted up on the wall. Christopher’s project was just a little cutout glued to a bright-red piece of construction paper.
The project, titled “inside scoop—fascinating facts about yours truly,” was a questionnaire that gave readers a little knowledge about each child author: what grade they’re in, how old they are, their favorite foods, sports, TV show, song, school activity, and the names of some of their friends.
Bob immediately noticed an answer to Christopher’s class project on display that broke his heart. On the line where his son should’ve written the names of his friends, he put “no one.”
NJ FATHER'S HEARTBREAKING FIND: New Jersey father Bob Cornelius posted this photo on Facebook after attending his son's…
“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 wrote in the post. He added: “I know this disconnect makes him feel lonely, and it makes him sad.”
The dad shared his son, who sometimes flaps his arms, makes loud husky sounds, and asks the same questions repeatedly, never really had a friend. Christopher had asked if he could invite someone over to their house when he saw his brothers had many sleepovers over the years.
But sadly, Christopher had no one to invite. “Because he didn’t have a friend. He’s never had a ‘real’ friend. Ever,” Bob wrote.
A dad's photo of his son’s school project is absolutely heartbreaking.He hopes that by sharing the picture, parents…
Bob felt his son’s pain, and he created the Facebook post hoping it would spread awareness of an extremely common issue amongst special-needs children: they’re excluded by the other school children because they’re different.
“As far as I know, (save for one time), Christopher’s classmates have never been overtly cruel to him,” the father wrote. “What they have done, however, is to exclude him. And frankly, I understand this … because Christopher cannot engage them in a typical way, he gets left behind…excluded.”
Bob’s pain drove him to do whatever he could to help Christopher and other children like him. He said children “were clearly not taught to embrace and accept the differences of others.”
The parent grinned when he first read his 11-year-old's class questionnaire. But then he looked closer, and he saw these 5 letters that "cut so deep."
He urged other parents to have a conversation with their children about empathy and to teach them “how awesome it is to include those who are a little bit different.”
“Please tell them that children with special needs understand far more than we give them credit for,” Bob wrote.
“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),” he continued. “Trust me when I tell you this hurts them.”
"This is my son, Christopher … He's about to make a lot of friends."
The powerful post went viral, tugging at readers’ heartstrings. Bob then posted his address for anyone who wished to send his son a card. Since then, cards, presents, and letters began pouring in by the hundreds for Christopher from people all around the world.
Some children even offered to be Christopher’s friends! Isn’t it amazing how the loving dad’s message has taught kids how to empathize with others and show compassion for their peers? We are sure now Christopher has more friends than he’s able to keep count of.
— Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) September 23, 2016
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