An Illinois mom has written an open letter to the parents of kids at a local pool who refused to play with her son who has Down syndrome. Kristen Miller Rumphol's viral Facebook post has received more than 11,000 reactions and 14,000 shares, as well as elicited over 1,000 comments, at time of writing.
"I am a special needs mother, my son Brandon has Down Syndrome," Rumphol writes.
"Today while at the swimming pool my heart was breaking!" she continues. "You see NO ONE wanted to play with my son. He would go up to other kids and say 'hi boy or hi girl.'" This distraught mom goes on to explain that Brandon is nonverbal and can be hard to understand.
"But he was trying his best!" Rumphol insists. "Every single time the kids would either look at him weird and say nothing or just swim away."
I can only imagine how hard it was for this mama to see her son looking back at her with the "look of disappointment" she describes. She also says he did not understand why kids were being so mean to him.
"Parents, please educate your children!" Rumphol writes next, adding, "Tell your children that children with special needs want the same thing they do, they want to be accepted. They want to be included and treated just like every other 'normal' child. They want friends that won't judge them and will just accept them as they are."
She suggests that if a child asks about Down syndrome, "Tell them it is a third copy of the 21st chromosome."
Rumphol ends her post by declaring, "Every person with Down Syndrome will learn to do the same thing as everyone else it just takes them longer to get there. They will need more help to there. But they WILL get there!"
Comments to the post were divided.
"First of all, the kids were not being mean. They just didn't understand your son and didn't know how to react. Mean would have been making fun of him," one person said in response to Rumphol's letter.
Meanwhile, another commenter wondered, "Why would a child be excluded from socialising with other children unless the other children had not been taught proper manners by their parents?"
Other commenters said that this mom's post helped inspire conversations with their kids about understanding differences. Many others empathized with Rumphol, whom Parents.com reached out to but didn't immediately hear back from.
Ultimately, it seems this mom's post was meant to stimulate conversations among parents and their kids, so I don't see how that can be criticized. I applaud Rumphol's efforts, and hope Brandon meets some awesome kids to play with the next time he's at a pool or park.
"I am just overwhelmed with the support and love everyone has been showing us," Rumphol told Parents.com about the effects of her viral post. "I have gotten well over a hundred private messages of people reaching out telling me different stories and just encouraging me and thanking me for writing the letter! Thousands of playdates have come in all across the country! A local baker is bringing cupcakes tomorrow for Brandon, care packages have been sent, and the local firefighters have reached out wanting Brandon to come visit the firehouse."
Well, that's a great start!