A Canadian mom took to Facebook last month to address the reason why, she said, her son was the only child not invited to a class birthday party.
Jennifer Engele of Langley, British Columbia told ABC News that on June 22, she learned invitations were handed out at school, and her son Sawyer, 8, was allegedly the only child who didn't receive one.
"At first, I slept on it and thought about how I should handle the situation," Engele said. "I have a lot of Facebook friends that have children with special needs as well as typical kids. I’m not one to air my dirty laundry on Facebook. I felt that it was an important message to share and hopefully make people stop and think about including kids in birthday parties that might not necessarily have been included."
She added: "I never thought it would get as much attention as it did. I have received so many comments from parents that have said the same thing happened to their child and they didn't have the courage to say anything."
Engele said she first sent an email to the parents throwing the birthday party. She then shared the same letter on Facebook where it received 33,000 reactions.
It read, in part:
"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..."
Although she was sad that Sawyer was not invited, Engele believed the parents may have not felt "equipped" to discuss why Sawyer is "different" than some of his other peers in the class, she said.
On June 24, the parents replied to Engele's email, informing her that they discussed Sawyer and Down Syndrome with their child.
The child even sent a special birthday invitation to Sawyer, Engele said.
"Sawyer was beaming, he ran up and showed me the invitation, he was so happy," Engele said. The parent agreed that it would be helpful to speak to the class about Down Syndrome next year.
"I think it can leave such a positive impression on a typical child to have a true friendship with another child that has special needs," she added. "I also think it’s so important for the child that has special needs to have these friendships as well. Often people with special needs live in isolation, only having friendships with their family or caregivers. It’s so important for people with special needs to have these relationships and be included. I hope that parents will consider making that one extra special invitation with their child to include someone who may not have been included before."
Engele said she's glad to report the story had a happy ending.