A mom, after witnessing her 11-year-old son with Down syndrome approach and then repeatedly get rejected by other kids at their local pool, wrote a heartbreaking open letter on Facebook.
“I am a special needs mother,” Kristen Miller Rumphol of Algonquin, Illinois, wrote on June 2. “My son Brandon has Down syndrome. I never thought I would be one of those mothers that write an open letter for all to read, but here I am. Today while at the swimming pool my heart was breaking! You see no one wanted to play with my son. He would go up to other kids and say ‘hi boy’ or ‘hi girl.’ He is still categorized as nonverbal and he is hard to understand, but he was trying his best! Every single time the kids would either look at him weird and say nothing or just swim away. Brandon would look back at me with a look of disappointment. Not understanding why the kids were being mean to him.”
She continued, pleading with parents to educate their children about kids with special needs like Brandon. “Tell your children that children with special needs want the same thing they do; they want to be accepted,” she wrote. “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.”
Mom Kristen Miller Rumphol (center) with her kids, including Brandon (left), at the pool. (Photo: Facebook/Kristen Miller Rumphol)More
The post has been shared more than 14,500 times and has been flooded with hundreds of positive, supportive comments. Several parents of special needs children commented that they could relate to Rumphol’s experience firsthand. “I’m so sorry this happened to you and your precious son!” wrote commenter Jeanie Schmidt. “As a special needs mom, I understand the continued pain and forever — it never seems to end — trying to pave the way. I’m so glad you wrote this letter. Maybe the more we express (and we seem to have no choice but to express), somehow more people will learn/teach their kids and actual humanity will grow. So with you in spirit and in seeing far more Beauty, positivity and strength in our children than in anything else in the world.”
Michael Kapustinksy wrote: “My son is turning 5 and has Down syndrome, and experienced a lot of positive and also negative experiences from people. He is also nonverbal, and kids who don’t know him get scared and confused. I try to explain to them that he just wants to play, and he doesn’t speak. Some kids tend to understand and some don’t. Changing behavior is no easy feat. I always try to stay positive; everyone experiences hardships.”
Rumphol shares with Yahoo Beauty that it’s okay the other kids didn’t want to play with her son, but they could have reacted in a kinder way. “There was no compassion — just complete rudeness in my book,” she says. “I understand having him say, ‘hi boy’ is not the social thing we’re used to. But even just a smile or a wave or a ‘hi’ and then walk away. It was the absolute nothingness or just swimming away [that was hard].”
She hopes her post will spur more parents to talk to their children about kids with special needs and how to respond in a compassionate way. “I know he wears his diagnosis on his face and there’s the fear of the unknown, but show kids that these kids are not scary and say hi,” says Rumphol. “Show by example or say, ‘Hey, we saw that child with Down syndrome at the pool,’ and have that open conversation about it.”
Brandon enjoying time at the pool. (Photo courtesy of Kristen Miller Rumphol)More
Rumphol says that several parents reached out to her after her post, saying they’re sharing her letter and are going to have a conversation with their kids. An added bonus: Ever since the letter went viral, Brandon has practically become a celebrity at their local pool.
“Since we’ve been back, it’s been amazing,” Rumphol shares with Yahoo Beauty. “Kids are saying hi to him. He’s very well known now! Moms are coming up and saying thank you for that post and please play with my kids. The response has been overwhelming. I’ve had care packages sent to Brandon. NISRA [Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association] is throwing him a picnic on Friday. A local bakery is bringing cupcakes to him tomorrow. It makes me feel good. I’m so thankful that people are sharing our the story and getting that message out there.”
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