You Should Know: Josh Stehle

From left: Josh and Zach Stehle. Tessa Marie Images

Ellen Braunstein

Josh Stehle is a 21-year-old author, social media influencer, public speaker and advocate for people with autism, such as his older brother and best friend, Zach Stehle.

Zach Stehle, 23, is a collector and expert on comic book superheroes, a grocery store cashier and “one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet,” Josh Stehle said.

The brothers post two to three TikTok videos a week that delve into the world of autism and the Jewish brothers’ special bond. They have a following of 95,000 on the platform, where Zach Stehle answers “insane comic book questions” from viewers trying to stump him.

“Zach is the sweetest, most amazing brother,” Josh Stehle said. “He knows everything there is to know about comic books and superheroes. Stacks and stacks of comic books just fill his room and surround his bed. He loves their characters and their world.”
Josh Stehle of West Chester is a senior marketing major at West Chester University. He also works in marketing for a small haircutting chain. His brother lives with his parents in Downingtown and has worked at Giant Food for the past seven years. His store named him employee of the year in 2022.

Ten months ago, Four Horsemen published Josh Stehle’s 100-page book, “I am a Superhero Expert: Growing Up with My Autistic Brother.” Its popularity has been “heartwarming and amazing,” Josh Stehle said. He is working on a sequel.

“The reason I wrote this superhero book is that in media and social media, there is a lot of negativity regarding autism and the autism spectrum,” Josh Stehle said. “Sure, there are challenges. We all have challenges. But I wanted to write this book to display a side of the autism spectrum that is my perspective, and I have such a positive experience with my brother.”

Stehle wanted to tackle a new perspective on a sibling’s relationship with an autistic person. “It’s not something in literature that is seen very often.”

“There are so many misconceptions of autism, especially the belief that the autism spectrum is linear — that people are more autistic or less autistic. That’s actually not true. Autism is not linear. Everybody has strengths and challenges; this isn’t just autistic people,” Josh Stehle said. “Mine happen to not place me on the autism spectrum, but they place him on the spectrum.

“And what I hope to continue to advocate for and what I want to impart in this book and what I stand for is that everybody has strengths and challenges. That’s what makes us human. My strengths and challenges are no more or less important than Zach’s strengths and challenges. If we view the world like that, we can be more understanding of everyone.”

Zach Stehle is challenged by social situations and reading comprehension, his brother said. “These are common characteristics of many people who are autistic, and these are challenges that he works through. He also has some great strengths. He has almost a photographic memory. His memory is insane, especially with comic books.”

The brothers speak at school assemblies about their book and autism awareness “to spread acceptance. It starts with awareness and awareness turns into acceptance.”

The Stehle brothers grew up in a Jewish household centered around Shabbat dinners and their synagogue, Beth Chaim Reform Congregation in Malvern.

“It was always a family event, oftentimes with my grandparents. We were always together and came together as a family,” said Josh Stehle, who has a twin sister. “Of course, my mom’s cooking was amazing. It’s those things about being Jewish — the traditions and the family — it’s what I remember most.”

The family takes its cues from Zach Stehle and his approach to life.

“He is the source of great happiness in the world,” Josh Stehle said. Sometimes, he doesn’t realize it and how good he is to people, strangers, people he will never see again. There are people who have already made assumptions about him because he’s autistic and it doesn’t matter to Zach. He is always trying to help people and be nice and kind to them and go out of his way for people.

“When I started to see him and imitate him, when I started to really try to be Zach, I started to ask the question, what would Zach do in this situation? I would do that, and it would make my life better,” Josh Stehle said. “I became a nicer person, a kinder person, a happier person. ‘What would Zach do?’ is the quote that I live by. That is powerful to me.

“I’ve grown up my entire life, watching and growing and learning from him. That is why I call him my superhero, and, in turn, why I call myself a superhero expert. I look at Zach and despite being doubted and so often limited just purely because he’s autistic, he persevered and helps people and inspires people. He makes the world a better place just like a superhero would.”

Find Josh Stehle on Instagram and TikTok at @joshstehl.

Ellen Braunstein is a freelance writer.


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