Parents and guardians caring for a special needs child are well aware of the daily obstacles they must overcome and the long term commitments their role requires. Often outsiders focus on the many challenges for the parents/guardians, when in truth, the siblings within these families face a broad range of issues as well. Due to the attention required by their special needs siblings, frequently the typical brothers and sisters must find a way to deal with their increased responsibilities and feelings of neglect within their families alone. To help siblings of special needs children face these unique challenges, a unique organization, the Sibling Support Project, was created in the hopes of strengthening the entire family unit. Founded in 1990, the Sibling Support Project has provided leadership, training and workshops in all 50 of the United States as well as Canada, England, Ireland, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Guatemala, Turkey, Argentina, Belgium, Croatia, Iceland, Australia and Greece.
One of the most important elements of the Sibling Support Project is its workshops or Sibshops, which provides peer support and outreach within a recreational atmosphere (games, activities, special guests). Although the workshops were originally created for children ages 8 to 13, the program has been extended to include a larger age range as well as support for the siblings of kids facing conditions such as cancer, HIV positive status and for those children who have lost a loved one.
In addition to working with children, the workshops gather adult siblings together to exchange information and provide support for their peers. Service providers, who are social workers, special education educators, psychologists and adult siblings of persons with special needs, bring siblings and parents together to discuss the issues faced by all family members. The Siblings Support Project provides valuable peer support for the entire family and support for communities interested in beginning similar projects in their area. Designed to “reflect a belief that brothers and sisters have much to offer one another--if they are given a chance,” this program can have long term, generational positive benefits for involved families.
Visit SiblingSupport.org to get more information about the Sibling Support Project, to locate a Sibshop in your area and to learn how to create a Sibshop in your community. From the website you may also connect with other siblings online, view Sibshop curriculum and order an array of helpful books.
--------Books to Consider ------------------
Thicker Than Water: Essays by Adult Siblings of People with Disabilities
Sibshops: Workshops for Siblings of Children with Special Needs