The mother of a boy with Down syndrome who was the only child excluded from a classmate’s birthday party has penned an open letter to the parents who didn’t invite him.
Jennifer Kiss-Engels, from Canada, took to Facebook to share the incident involving her eight-year-old son Sawyer, the only child in a class of 23 who was not invited to the party. The mum said she felt hurt for her boy, adding it was important to share the message to educate and advocate for wider acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.
“I know it’s not because he’s mean, you couldn’t meet a happier child. I know it’s not because he’s not fun, he has a great sense of humour and an infectious laugh,” she wrote. “I know it’s not because your child and him don’t get along, he’s brought up your child’s name on several occasions. “The only reason why you decided it was OK to not invite my son to your child’s birthday party is because he has Down syndrome.”
She goes on to admit that, prior to finding out that her son had Down syndrome, she too was misinformed about the condition. “I know if you knew more about Down syndrome you wouldn’t have made this decision. I am not mad at you,” she wrote.
“I was so worried that my other children wouldn’t be able to connect with him in the same way as other siblings do,” Kiss-Engels said about the time she found out she was having a boy with Down Syndrome.
“But I was wrong. In fact, my children are closer than most other siblings are. Having a brother with Down Syndrome has helped shape them into compassionate individuals who know that just because you may be a little different that others, that it’s OK,” she continued.
“I know it can be difficult to teach our children about something we may not understand ourselves. I struggle with this as well. But this is a great opportunity and life lesson to have with your child.”They will remember the time that their parent said to them, it’s not OK to leave someone out because of their disability, race, or gender. I know you want the same things for your child that I want for mine.” The mum added she thinks she should have done what she said other parents of special needs children do and educate the class about her son at the beginning of the year.
“He’s always just been Sawyer to me and I haven’t felt the need to talk about Down syndrome to his class until this moment. I realize now that I have let him down,” she said. “I think we both could have done better,” she concluded, addressing the other parent.
In an update to her original post, Kiss-Engels says the parents of the birthday child had read her letter and got in touch and that Sawyer got a special party invite made for him, which he is thrilled about. Since it was first posted on June 24, the letter has been shared more than 4000 times.