Gavin Joseph is your typical teenage, recent, high school graduate. At least that is how he wants to be seen by everyone. Gavin has some trouble with social skills and making friends, problems that stem from his diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome when he was just 3 years old. Aspergers is a disorder that can severely impair someone’s ability to socialize normally with other people. Simple tasks that you and I take for granted every day such as: taking turns talking, reading body language or recognizing changes in someone’s voice are extremely difficult and sometimes impossible for someone with Aspergers. As you can imagine, in a high school setting this can be particularly frustrating for someone with Aspergers. As a result, Gavin found himself on the receiving end of some pretty terrible teasing throughout high school. It culminated in late June when he was attacked by a group of students who thought he was weird for always hanging out by himself. The teens beat him pretty bad, the end result was a massive hematoma on Gavin’s eye, a fractured nose, bruised esophagus, and a concussion. Needless to say these kids didn’t hold back. Gavin did however. Instead of pressing charges against the teens, Gavin simply wanted to make this a learning experience for them. So he made a video tape and asked that the teens watch it with their parents as part of their community service, which he also requested be disability related. He also requested that they write a paper about Aspergers. In the video, Gavin explains how Aspergers works so they could all see the damage that was done to him and to hear the event from his perspective. This bullied kid forgives his attackers without a second thought, he simply wants to be accepted for who he is. How many of us can say we would have done the same thing?
Gavin, eating soup after the being hit in the face during a premeditated attack by classmates who thought he was “weird” and “creepy” for hanging out alone.
A close up of Gavin’s eye after the attack that left him with a hematoma around his eye, a concussion, a bruised esophagus, and a fractured nose.
Gavin Joseph poses with a friend after graduating from Wesclin Senior High School in New Baden, Illinois. Gavin’s mother has said his Aspergers makes it difficult for him to meet and keep friends.
Gavin with his high school friend again. It really does astonish me how people can judge someone based on something so trivial as a mental disorder.
This post is something that I am all to familiar with and something I take very much to heart. Having grown up with anxiety, depression, ADHD and Tourette Syndrome I know all to well how cruel and heartless children and teens can be. Getting through high school is a tough enough task nowadays with all the social pitfalls kids have to navigate. If you’re a kid with Aspergers, or any other type of social disorder, it can almost seem downright impossible. We need to start educating our children at a young age about mental and social disorders that can make other kids seem different. Knowledge and understanding towards others should always be first and foremost in our minds as we deal with people who are different from us. I can only hope that my future children have the courage and capacity for forgiveness that Gavin represented to all of us.