When Jennifer Kiss-Engele’s little boy was the only kid in his class not invited to a classmate’s birthday party, she thought she knew why: because he has Down syndrome.
So Kiss-Engele, from Langley, British Columbia, Canada, wrote an open letter on Facebook explaining how the slight felt for her and her son, Sawyer, who is 8.
"I know it’s not because he’s mean, you couldn’t meet a happier child,” Kiss-Engele wrote in the letter, which has since gone viral with thousands of likes and shares.
"I know it’s not because he’s not fun, he has a great sense of humor 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.
“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.”
Sawyer was the only kid in the class of 23 kids excluded from the birthday celebration, wrote Kiss-Engele, who didn’t return messages from TODAY seeking comment.
But rather than sounding off on the classmate or the parents, the wounded mom-of-three focused on the positive influence her son has had on other kids, saying he’s taught them compassion and understanding.
She only wished he'd received the same in return.
"People with Down Syndrome want the same things that you and I want," she wrote. "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,” she said.
She also said she felt an “obligation” to educate people about Down syndrome "and how they are more like you than different."
“Please know that I am here to talk if you would like… I recognize that we all make mistakes and at the end of the day, I think we both could have done better.”
Her heartfelt plea eventually reached the child’s parents.
And on Sunday, Kiss-Engele's post was updated to say there was a happy ending — the parents spoke to their child about Sawyer and then created a special invitation just for him.
“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,” Kiss-Engele wrote.
Her hope was that other parents who read her letter would consider sending that “extra invitation” to their own events.
“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.”