Hand to Hold believes that the birth of a premature baby or a baby with special health care needs affects the lives of all family members. Like parents, siblings need support, encouragement and information to navigate through some of life’s most challenging circumstances. In celebration of National Sibling Day we’re featuring the Sibling Support Project and the incredible work they do!
The Seattle-based Sibling Support Project is dedicated to giving a voice to the life-long concerns of brothers and sisters of siblings with special healthcare and developmental needs. The mission of the Sibling Support Project is to provide peer support as well as information. Their goal is to give opportunities for brothers and sisters of people with special needs to talk about their relationship with their sibling in a supportive environment and to increase parents’ and providers’ understanding of sibling issues.
They do this by…
- training local service providers on how to create community-based peer support programs for young siblings,
- hosting workshops, social network sites, and websites for young and adult siblings, and
- increasing parents’ and providers’ awareness of siblings’ unique, lifelong, and ever-changing concerns through workshops and online and published materials.
Their most successful program is called SibShops. Created by Don Meyer, the SibShop curriculum can be used by any agency that serves families of children with special needs. Providers can be trained to host their own SibShop to support the families in their community. SibShops are best described as “special events” that are facilitated by a team of service providers (such as social workers, special education teachers and professors, psychologists, nurses, and families) and adult siblings of people with special needs. By recognizing the importance of the sibling relationship, SibShops celebrate the unique bond, both rewarding and challenging, that siblings in these families share.
♥ Read What Siblings Would Like Parents and Service Providers to Know and watch this video courtesy of Sibling Support Project and The Arc of King County in Seattle.
“SibShops utilize games and active play to create a safe environment where siblings of children with special needs can come together to see that they are not alone in what they are experiencing – the joys and challenges – with their brothers and sisters.”
Laura notes that while SibShops are not meant to be counseling sessions, the role of the experienced staff is to recognize if a sibling is in need of more specialized help and support parents as they navigate this special and unique relationship.
“Often times, siblings are afraid to tell their parents what they are feeling because they don’t want to upset them or be a burden. Having a sibling with special needs takes a lot of energy and time from the parents and often the other siblings feel left behind. SibShops gives the kids a safe place to express themselves.”
The relationship between siblings is often the longest, most important relationship a child will have and should be recognized and nurtured. When one of the siblings has special needs, it can change the dynamic of that relationship in many ways. Laura strongly supports SibShops.
“As a member of Hand to Hold and a parent of a child with special needs, I understand the support that parents need to deal with the family that they are raising. However, the same is true for siblings. SibShops acknowledges these brothers and sisters and not only allows them to talk about the challenges of having a sibling with special needs, but also to celebrate the wonderful, positive things that come with it as well.” Read Laura’s story: For the Love of Cameron
For more information on the Sibling Support Project, to join one of their many online networking communities, to see if there is a SibShop near you or for information on how to start a SibShop in your own city, please visit www.siblingsupport.org. The Sibling Project is a program of Seattle-based Kindering Center, a nonprofit neurodevelopmental clinic that provides comprehensive services, crucial therapies, special education, and counseling for over 2,000 infants and children with special needs each year.