N.J. dad's heartbreaking school photo highlights son's loneliness

ROCKAWAY, NJ (WABC) -- When Bob Cornelius of Rockaway, New Jersey attended his son's back-to-school night, he said it was "pretty typical." He snapped a few photos of his 11-year-old son Christopher's classwork, heard about the classroom day-to-day and went home.

And then he looked at a photo he had snapped and saw it. It was a simple enough question. But the answer was "like a punch in the gut," Cornelius said.

"Favorite food he wrote 'pizza,' favorite sport he wrote 'soccer,' and then it was asked to list his friends he said 'no one.' That was heartbreaking," Cornelius said.

Christopher has autism.

The 6th grader communicates with his parents, but never told them this painful news.

In a Facebook post that's now been shared more than 12,000 times, Cornelius detailed his thoughts on not only his son, but how children everywhere who don't fit the mold are being excluded. Cornelius urged his 250 friends to spread the word, and it worked.

The Rockaway man ended up on a radio show in Kansas City and his story then went viral.

Video messages flooded Bob's Facebook page.

Then letters poured in to their home, about 200 so far.

"He couldn't wrap his head around it. I said, 'These are from your friends. You have friends now.' And he said, 'No, Christopher has no friends.' I said, 'No, these people want to be your friend.' After he settled down, he started opening the cards," Cornelius said.

Cornelius hopes parents will talk to their children about the kids left on the sidelines.

"At this point I don't think the conversation is about autism. I don't even think it's about Christopher, it's about inclusion. It's about reaching out to people who might not fit," Cornelius said.

If you would like to write to Christopher, you can mail him at the address seen in the Facebook post. null
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