What would you do if you found out that every child in your kid’s class had been invited to a birthday party except for yours? That’s exactly what happened to Jennifer Kiss-Engele of Langley, British Columbia. Except her situation was a little more sensitive: her eight-year-old son, Sawyer, has Down syndrome. And as the only member of his class with special needs, the exclusion was all the more painful.
In the post, Kiss-Engele responds kindly to the exclusion of her son from the birthday party while educating her peers on what it actually means to have a child with Down syndrome:
“I am sorry that you are not informed, maybe scared, or uncertain about what it means to have Down Syndrome. I know if you knew more about Down Syndrome you wouldn’t have made this decision. I am not mad at you. Rather, I think this is an opportunity for you to get to know my son better. You see, having Down Syndrome doesn’t mean that you don’t want to have friends. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have feelings. It doesn’t mean you don’t like to go to birthday parties. People with Down Syndrome want the same things that you and I want. They want to have close relationships, they want to feel love, they want to contribute, they want to have meaningful lives, and they want to go to birthday parties. It may be more difficult at times to understand my child. But the laughter and love that you share doesn’t need interpretation.”
Luckily, this story has a happy ending. After the intended parent read the letter, which has since been shared nearly 7,000 times, the parent and her child created a special birthday invitation just for Sawyer. According to Kiss-Engele, her son has been “beaming ever since and can’t stop talking about it.”
After Kiss-Engele’s heartfelt letter went viral, she appeared on Vancouver’s CTV News to speak about the importance of inclusion for children with and without special needs. She referred to the incident as a “teachable moment” and stressed again that she thought the solution was to educate the other parents about kids with special needs instead of shaming them.
“He is so loving,” said Kiss-Engele. “He’s the center of our universe.”
And most importantly, what could have been a devastating moment of exclusion for a child with Down syndrome has instead become a wonderful example of advocacy.
(Via The Huffington Post)