It goes without saying that every child wants to feel accepted. So when Sawyer was the only child in his class not invited to a birthday party, his mom, Jennifer Kiss Engle, who believed it was because he has Down Syndrome, took action. And she did so in a beautifully respectful and effective way.
In a public Facebook post to the parent 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."
Without throwing blame or shaming the parents, she went on to describe her son's disability:
"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."
Then she offered understanding to the parents and reminded them of a very valuable lesson they can teach their children:
"Maybe you are struggling with the words to say to your child because your child did not want my son at their birthday party. Maybe you let your child decide that it was OK to single someone out. I know it can be difficult to teach our children about something we may not understand ourselves. I struggle with this as well. But this is a great opportunity and life lesson to have with your child. They will remember the time that their parent said to them, it’s not OK to leave someone out because of their disability, race, or gender. I know you want the same things for your child that I want for mine. As parents, we want our children to be liked, to have friends, and to not be left behind. And how we do this is by setting examples ourselves and encouraging them to make choices that they might not be old enough to fully comprehend. But they will look back one day with understanding and the knowledge that you have shared with them. I am certain, that 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."
In addition to this mother's love for her child, what stands out is her ability to respectfully communicate with these parents. Instead of throwing anger and hate, she offered understand and built a bridge. And the results were wonderful. After the original post, which has been shared more than 18k times, she added an update:
“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.”