Teen with Down syndrome cries with joy over a birthday party invitation: ‘We all want to be wanted’

A video of a teenage girl with Down syndrome crying tears of joy over a birthday invitation has gone viral — but the reality it portrays is bittersweet at best.

In the video, shared to the “Lucky Few” Instagram page, 15-year-old Macy can be seen crying as her mom celebrated with her over receiving an invitation to a birthday party. In the caption, Macy’s mom, Heather Avis, wrote more about the emotional moment.

“Yesterday Macy got in the car and showed me an invitation to a birthday party for a friend at school who is also in the life skills program,” she said. “Y’all! I’m not exaggerating when I tell you we can count on one hand the amount of birthday parties she’s been invited to by school peers/friends SINCE KINDERGARTEN! She is now in 9th grade. Her joy from this invitation is palpable. WOW! To me it spoke of a longing fulfilled. All I could do was laugh with her and then cry as I celebrated with her.”

She followed up with an interview about the now-viral video for “You can hear me start to get choked up because my sweet girl is so elated to be included,” she said. “It speaks to the common humanity that we all share. We all as humans want to feel like we belong. We all want to be wanted.”

Avis later shared an update of Macy at the birthday party, having a great time. “We all have opportunity to be the person to say, ‘I’m going to create a space where everyone can belong,’” she concluded in her interview.

And while on its face, the story is heartwarming and sweet, it raises serious concerns about inclusion of people with disabilities as well.

The reason people like Macy get so excited about a birthday party invitation is because they rarely get them. People with special needs are often placed in separated classrooms, where they rarely interact with their typical peers, and are excluded from typical community activities.

This exclusion has real consequences.

In Iceland, for example, bioethicists have explained that their nearly-100% abortion rate for babies with Down syndrome is at least partly due to the lack of interaction with people with disabilities. “Personally, I think the best thing we can do is to have people with intellectual disability and people with Down syndrome … publicly visible,” Ástríður Stefánsdóttir, a medical doctor and a professor in applied ethics at the University of Iceland, said. “This changes the way people think [through] personal histories, personal encounters.”

But if no one has personal encounters with people different from them, if they’re othered and excluded — such as never being invited to birthday parties — then disability remains something strange, something to be feared. If we want acceptance of people with Down syndrome and other disabilities, then better inclusion needs to take place.

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