While SibStrong intends to work with siblings of all ages, one of the initial areas of focus will be to support elementary school-aged siblings. The in-school program will provide a regular time and space for siblings to get together with other brothers and sisters of people with disabilities.
Combining activities, discussion and games, these sessions, run by a school counselor and an older sibling of someone with a disability, will allow siblings to:
- Meet other siblings of people with disabilities
- Develop a community of other children who share similar experiences to them
- Provide a safe space for siblings to talk about their experiences—the good and the bad
- Celebrate the unique role they play in the lives of their brothers and sisters
- Better understand disability and ways to talk about it to friends and peers
- Learn strategies for dealing with challenging situations
- Ask questions they may have about their role as the sibling of someone with a disability
The goal of the SibStrong In-School program is to provide a supportive and FUN environment that will empower siblings, allow them to form a community of siblings, while also broadening understanding and acceptance of disability in-school.
Along with supporting your sons and daughters, SibStrong will offer opportunities for parents to access sibling-related resources and interact with older siblings to learn first-hand about the sibling experience.
Family Communication Support
For siblings in this age demographic, SibStrong will provide opportunities for parents of these siblings to speak with older siblings as well as health and behavioral professionals to learn best practices, obtain resources and generally receive support on speaking to their family—particularly the siblings—about how ASD/DD affects their family. For many families, having conversations about a sibling’s role—both current and future—in the life of their ASD or developmentally disabled sibling’s life can be a challenge. Family workshops and resources will be designed and implemented to encourage parents and children to take the necessary steps to engage in these important conversations.
One of the aims of SibStrong is to truly be a “by siblings for siblings,” organization. While support will involve the efforts of the entire community, SibStrong recognizes the value that older siblings, at each stage of life, can bring as a resource for younger siblings as they navigate the unique and often challenging role of being the sibling of someone with ASD/DD. For the elementary school programs, SibStrong will coordinate with local high schools and disability organizations to find, vet and train volunteers who will work alongside educational professionals in the SibStrong in-school programs. This laddered support approach will allow older siblings to both help younger siblings of people with ASD/DD while at the same time connecting with siblings their own age. With their recent experience as younger siblings, they will have the ability to offer fresh perspective and guidance on the younger sibling experience. For those high-school aged students, guidance from adult siblings in their 20s and 30s will be most relevant. In the same vein, siblings in their 20s and 30s who may be dealing with issues and have questions around lifetime support and parental transition issues, older siblings can be a resource to answer questions and provide guidance.