Posted by Alyssa Laser and Kate Leon
JF&CS and Wayland Youth and Family Services hosted our second Sibshops series this past year. These monthly sessions allow siblings (ages 8-12) of kids with disabilities to meet other kids who have similar experiences. The group consisted of seven participants and met eight times on Sunday afternoons at JF&CS Headquarters in Waltham. Sibshops recognizes that the sibling relationship will likely be the longest lasting relationship for the individual with a disability and that siblings and their concerns cannot be ignored.
The Sibshops model encourages high energy, action-packed sessions that recognize and celebrate the contributions and experiences of the siblings of children with special needs. Sibshops sessions consist of a mix of lively games, crafts, field trips (Launch Trampoline Park, Kimball Farms, and mini golf to name a few!), and discussion-based activities. Peer support and discussion are common themes woven throughout the Sibshops model. Often that support is unspoken, with participants taking comfort in knowing that they are among others who have had similar experiences.
During one session this year, we encouraged sibs to talk about various times in their lives by selecting "time capsules" (colorful plastic eggs) that contained pieces of paper with prompts such as "A time when my sib made me laugh." When one participant chose "A time when I was embarrassed by my brother or sister," another participant told the group in an unsure voice that her sibling always makes loud noises when they are in public and sometimes people stare. Before she could even finish her sentence, several other sibs were nodding their heads in agreement and offered words of empathy and encouragement. One participant said, "I know how you feel, my brother does that all the time," while another shouted, "That happens to me, too!" The child's face changed as they recognized that they were surrounded by peers who understood the unique joys and challenges of having a sibling with a disability.
This year's Sibshops series is starting this month! Would it be a good fit for someone you know? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more and sign up.
Alyssa Laser is the Senior Residential Compliance Manager, responsible for the oversight and management of the operations and compliance of all JF&CS Supported Housing programs. JF&CS Services for People with Disabilities residences are dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for our residents who have a diverse range of cognitive and psychiatric disabilities.
Kate Leon, LCSW is the Clinical Specialist for JF&CS Supported Housing programs. Within this role, Kate develops support plans for residents supported in the residential programs, facilitates weekly groups for adults with special needs, and provides staff training and development.