Jennifer Kiss-Engele was heartbroken when she learned her 8-year-old son Sawyer — who has Down syndrome — was the only kid in his class of 23 not invited to a birthday party. “The invites were handed out at school and he was the only child to not receive one,” the Langley, British Columbia–based mom tells Us Weekly.
Rather than keep quiet, Kiss-Engele penned a lengthy, moving open letter on Facebook that has since gone viral with 15,000 likes and nearly 5,000 shares. In the post, Kiss-Engele pointed out that the exclusion was “not an oversight” but “an intentional decision.”
“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 humor and an infectious laugh. 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,” she wrote. “The only reason you decided it was OK to not invite my son to your child’s birthday party is because he has Down Syndrome.”
Kiss-Engele explained that she was “not mad” at the parent. “I know if you knew more about Down Syndrome you wouldn’t have made this decision,” the mother of three, who works in marketing communications, wrote. “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.”
“Please know that I am here to talk if you would like,” she wrote to the other mother. “I may be a mama bear but I am not a scary person. I recognize that we all make mistakes and at the end of the day, I think we both could have done better.”
Since penning the letter, Sawyer has been added to the guest list.
“I sent the letter to the mom before posting it on Facebook. In her reply, she agreed that it would be beneficial to talk to the kids about Down Syndrome,” Kiss-Engele tells Us. “I think her child didn’t really understand Sawyer. Once the mom spoke to her about him, and they talked about how he’s a happy guy who likes to give hugs, her child understood him better.”
The birthday girl even made Sawyer a special, personalized invitation. “Sawyer was so happy,” says Kiss-Engele. “His teachers told me he talked about it all day. He was beaming when he showed it to me and he’s been excited about it ever since.”
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