By: Stephanie Godbout, MS CCC-SLP and Elvira Fulchino, MS OTR/L, MSW, LICSW (Sibshop Coordinators)
The Boston Ability Center held a six week Sibshop from October 14- November 18, 2017 for siblings of children with special needs. Each Saturday for 1.5 hours we had seven boys and girls, ranging in ages from six to 10 years old, participating in a variety of fun group activities. Sibshops were created by Don Meyer, Director of the Sibling Support Project. He describes Sibshops as “lively, pedal-to-the metal celebrations of the many contributions made by brothers or sisters of kids with special needs.”
The Sibshops were facilitated by two clinicians from the Boston Ability Center and one or two volunteers from the community who are adult siblings themselves. These adult volunteers added an important dimension to our groups as they provided role models for the Sibshop participants and contributed to discussions regarding life with a sibling with special needs.
Our Sibshop groups covered serious topics through fun activities that facilitated the siblings’ ability to articulate their feelings and express their thoughts about the complex relationship with a sibling who has special needs. Over the six weeks the children became more comfortable sharing their perspectives and formed supportive relationships with one another.
Feedback from the children and their parents was very positive. One parent shared that Sibshop was the only place where her son was not worried about anyone else, stating that “It’s just for him.” These are powerful words to describe what the Sibshops’ mission is.
We are looking forward to a reunion in the winter with our Fall group and are planning a Sibshop for children ages 3-5 years in the early Spring.
This has been a powerful experience for us as a staff and we look forward to continuing to provide this service to all families.
Meyer, Don, M.Ed. and Vadasy, Patricia, Ph.D. Sibshops Workshops for Siblings of Children with Special Needs, 2009, Paul H Brookes Publishing, Baltimore, Maryland.