A mother and resident of Langley, B. C., Canada wrote an open letter on June 23 to parents who invited the entire class to their child’s birthday party—except for her son who has Down’s Syndrome, also known as Down syndrome.
Jennifer Kiss-Engele said her son Sawyer, 8, was the only child in his class of 23, who was not invited to one student’s birthday celebration. Engele told the parent on her Facebook page that it “was not an oversight on your part, that it was an intentional decision to not to include my son.”
She then listed several instances that couldn’t possibly be the reason Sawyer was not invited:
“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. 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.”
There was only one reason her son was not invited to the child’s birthday party, and it was because Sawyer has Down Syndrome, she wrote.
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.
Despite last week’s incident, Engele said she too was just like the parent, “I want you to know that I was also like you. I was scared, uncertain and misinformed about Down Syndrome before having my son,” she wrote. She also said she is available to talk to the parent, if need be.
“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,” Engele ended her letter.
Engele’s post has since been shared over 4,000 times, with more than 15,000 likes as of June 27.