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Sibling support is important for special needs families and nationwide Sib Shops can help.
My oldest daughter needs more assistance than my youngest. That is just a simple fact. However, as many parents know, it is far from simple.
Because her immediate needs are less, my youngest daughter (who is 9) doesn’t get as much attention as my oldest. She’s able to do more for herself without hands-on assistance. Between them, she is often the voice of reason, even though she’s chronologically 4 years younger.
That sounds as awful in the written word as it is in real life. But it’s the agonizing truth.
My youngest doesn’t express frustration about her sister – outside of what I’d call typical sibling grumblings. She’s always been quick to introduce her to her friends, and include her, even when doing so is likely to present challenges.
Yet, she never talks about it. Always with a smile on her face, everyone describes my youngest as kind and happy. That eats away at me, mostly because I know she’s highly sensitive. She is the kid who absorbs everything, and smiles outwardly. Over time, that can be emotionally draining. That’s why it’s important to find outlet for her.
I was thankful to find a Sib Shop in our area, to give her a chance to meet kids in similar situations in a safe space for open discussion. Sib Shop is offered where we live a few times per year.
About the Sibling Support Project
According to the Sibling Support Project, Sib Shop is a 4 hour workshop where siblings will “meet other sibs, have fun, laugh, talk about the good and not-so-good parts of having a sib with special needs, play some great games, learn something about the services their brothers and sister receive, and have some more fun.” It’s designed for ages 8 to 13.
The Sibling Support Project has standards of practice for all registered Sib Shops. Our local Shop lists 5 goals:
- Provide brothers and sisters of children with special needs an opportunity to meet other siblings in a relaxed, recreational setting.
- Provide opportunities to discuss common joys and concerns with other siblings of children with special needs.
- Teach participants how others handle situations commonly experienced by siblings of children with special needs.
- Supply siblings with an opportunity to learn more about the implications of their sibling’s special needs.
- Provide parents and other professionals with opportunities to learn more about the concerns and opportunities frequently experienced by brothers and sisters of people with special needs.
Therapeutic, but not therapy, Sib Shop helps my girl find her tribe — one of my core recommendations for new special needs parents. Her experience is different from kids who grow up in a typical family setting, and she deserves to feel some way about that and express it without judgement. She deserves to seek solidarity with people who ‘get it,’ while also gaining a deeper understanding of her sister’s special needs.
Our experience with Sib Shop
Our experience with Sib Shop has been positive — my daughter comes home talking about making new friends, making crafts and playing games. Here, she gets lots of individual attention that isn’t always possible at home. Immediately after leaving the program, she asked me to sign up for the next one — that sounds like two thumbs up to me!
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