Photos by Tessa Marie Images
An author and autism advocate, Josh Stehle is sharing what he’s learned from his brother Zach in his new book.
It’s doubtful that Downingtown’s Josh Stehle would’ve become a leading autism advocate if it wasn’t for his brother, Zach. A junior at West Chester University, Stehle just published his first book, I Am a Superhero Expert: Growing Up with My Autistic Brother (Accomplishing Innovation Press, 109 pages). He’s also focused on growing a social media platform—now 100,000 strong on TikTok—that showcases his older brother’s gifts.
HY: What has your brother taught you that you want to share with the world?
JS: I’m deeply connected to a story in Chapter 9, because I now try to live by Zach’s point of view. He’s always trying to help people in need—family, friends, even strangers. When I made the conscious effort to become Zach-like, it felt really good. Zach looks at the world and says, “How can I make the world a better place like a superhero would?” I’ve grown up my entire life watching this person, learning from this person, admiring this person, taking what he’s doing and trying to incorporate it into my life. He’s a superhero, so I call myself a superhero expert.
HY: How can we make an impact on the autism community?
JS: There are so many things anyone can do, and there isn’t a wrong way to spread awareness. Zach and I speak, write, create and make videos, and we hope that people like what they see. I think the real key to making a difference is creating a culture of understanding and acceptance. When it comes to building a community, everyone’s voice is not only heard but appreciated. Our voice as a community can’t falter or go away.
HY: Is there a main takeaway for readers of your new book?
JS: I hope they learn to give people with special needs a chance. There are challenges with special needs, but there’s also immense and amazing beauty. A lot of times, people with special needs are disregarded and mistreated based on false, preconceived notions. In many cases, Zach will not be given a shot purely because of a cognitive disorder that he has no control over. It isn’t right. If only people could take the time to get to know someone like Zach, they’d see how much he could benefit the world with what he brings to the table.
HY: Any upcoming plans?
JS: Zach and I are going to be speaking at Comic-Cons at high schools and middle schools across Pennsylvania over the next few months. We’re going to be featured on The Ausome Show, a great autism TV program hosted by Jamiel Owens, and we also do podcasts. Zach and I are currently writing our next book. It’s about superheroes with a twist.