*I worked in the special needs industry for seven years, and I know that the children and young adults afflicted with conditions such as Autism, Down Syndrome and the entire spectrum, have the same wants and needs as any individual when it comes to love and acceptance. Which is why it hurts my heart so badly to hear about a child being excluded from anything because of a disability. In this particular case, Sawyer, who has Down Syndrome, was the only kid in his class who did not get an invite to a classmate’s birthday party. His mother chose to deal with this hurt by penning an open letter to the birthday boy’s family.
In “An open letter to the parent that thought it was OK to invite the entire class to their child’s birthday except my son,” Jennifer Kiss-Engele begins by clarifying why she feels it is so important for her to write it. I am “sharing this because I think it’s a valuable lesson for all and I’m trying to educate & advocate more…”
She then went on to say, “I know we don’t know each other well but my son Sawyer and your child are in the same class. I understand that your child recently delivered birthday invitations to the entire class except to Sawyer, who was not invited. I also understand that this was not an oversight on your part, that it was an intentional decision to not to include my son.”
Kiss-Engele must have also felt it was important to note that Sawyer didn’t invite every classmate to his birthday party last year either, but she explains in her social media post why this was the case for her son, and how it differs from this exclusion saying, “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.”
As I alluded to in the opening of this article, Sawyer’s mom reiterates that people with Down Syndrome still want the same connections and relationships as other people, and they are hurt just as badly when treated differently. But Kiss-Engle also showed empathy when she chose to admit her own initial fear, which came from being uninformed about her son’s condition, and learned that it would prevent him from having close relationships with his siblings.
Kiss-Engele advised the parent of the birthday boy to use this uncomfortable situation as an opportunity to teach her child that it is not okay to exclude someone based on a disability.
But there is a HAPPY ENDING to this story. And what began with only sour lemons, has now turned into sweet lemonade.
In an addendum to Kiss-Engele’s initial post, the following happened. Underlined emphasis attributed to this writer.
“I want you to know that there is a happy ending to this story. The parent read my letter, spoke to their child about Sawyer, and the child created a special birthday invite for Sawyer. Of course he’s been beaming ever since and can’t stop talking about it. I’m really proud that my letter has reached so many people because it’s not just this birthday party and it’s not just Sawyer. There are so many kids with special needs (and without of course) that just don’t make the cut. I think as parents we all need to do a better job of fostering these relationships, myself included. I hope that parents who read this will help open that dialogue with their own child and perhaps make that one ‘extra’ invitation.”
I hope this article has made our readers think, and will inspire you to teach your family members, children and adult, not to judge a person by their disability. Such judgement comes in many tricky forms such as treating them with disrespect, speaking at them instead of to them, or ignoring them altogether.
I know that if we are aware of these things, we will all work to do better. And since there have been 5.4K likes and more than 28K shares, its apparent that you agree.