After her son Sawyer was excluded from a classmate’s party because he had Down Syndrome, Jennifer Kiss-Engele penned a heartbreaking open letter on Facebook directed towards the classmate’s parents. Instead of reacting harshly and angrily, Jennifer takes the time to be compassionate, educational, and uses the opportunity to advocate for her disabled son.
“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 explains. “I am not mad at you. I think this is an opportunity to get to know my son better.” As a parent of a child with a disability, she understands the uncertainty and stigma. “I was like you. I was scared, uncertain and misinformed about Down Syndrome until I had my son.”
However, Jennifer advocates using exclusion from a birthday party as a learning experience as a life lesson for children on including people. Jennifer says, “they will remember a the time that their parent said to them, it’s not OK to leave someone out because of their disability, race, or gender.”
Jennifer goes on to explain, and even empathize with the uncertainty other parents might feel about children with disabilities, simply because they are misinformed and do not understand. Kids with Down Syndrome are equally deserving of a life full of laughter and friendship, and they are not unlike other children in wanting that companionship. Jennifer believes that the classmate “with a little encouragement, your child can develop a true friendship with my son that will leave a permanent, positive impression on them for the rest of their life.”
Jennifer goes on to say how her other children have grown from having a disabled sibling. “[Sawyer has]shaped them into compassionate individuals who know that just because you may be a little different then others, that is okay. And they are not afraid to help someone they see struggling.”
Perhaps the most heart-wrenching part of the letter is when Jennifer discusses her need to speak of Sawyer’s condition to his classmates and inform their families on his special needs. “I realize now that I have let him down. I have let a year slip away where I could have done more toe educate families.”
She concludes the letter by stating that she is not a scary person, just a protective mama bear. “I recognize that we all make mistakes and at the end of the day, I think we both could have done better.”