If any of you know me at all, you won’t be surprised to hear that Beth is the uber-organized one, and I’m more the ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ one in the relationship. It should further not surprise you to find out that I was sitting in a Portland conference room, getting ready to begin my training to be a Sibshop facilitator, and wasn’t really clear as to what that meant.
Sibshops were developed by a guy named Don Meyer, who founded the Sibling Support Network in Seattle many years ago. He likes to say he’s the only guy in the country who’s full time job it is to worry about siblings of those with special needs. He describes Sibshops as a celebration of the contributions made by siblings to their family and their sib with special needs.
Think about the dynamics in a family with a child with special needs. The child with needs gets the lion’s share of the attention. There are usually case managers, therapists, workers, teachers, etc. all centered around the child. There are meetings that the parents go to, and special accomodations that the whole family makes – for this child. It’s no wonder that many “sibs,” as we call them, feel invisible.
But who amongst us will spend the most time supporting Jake in his lifetime? Not his case manager or special ed teachers, not the occupational or speech therapists, and frankly, not even us, his parents. It’ll most likely be Gabe and Liv. Studies show that it will most likely be Olivia. It’s usually the sister. Interestingly enough, she’s already decided to be the one who cares for Jake. Previously on BigCalfGuy: Liv’s Interview.
Sibshops are designed to be safe, fun places where sibs can play and interact with other sibs. A Sibshop is therapeutic without being “therapy.” I was so afraid that we’d be sitting around in a circle on metal folding chairs sharing our deepest and darkest secrets. This is not the case. Almost entirely filled with activities, and entirely filled with fun, we had the best time ever hosting a Sibshop.
A dozen or so sibs, aged 8-13, attended our second day of training and helped us throw a Sibshop. We played games like “knots” and “triangle tag” while giving these kids a sense that they aren’t alone; and that others share their experiences. There were people from all kinds of agencies, from all over the map. There were a pair of ladies representing New Jersey and New York. There were a trio of women from Ohio. There were a handful of us from Maine. Beth and I will soon be hosting our very own Sibshops in the middle-northern Maine region. We’ve already begun working the logistics with some great agencies in our area.
Having sat at the right hand of the master (Don Meyer) for two days, we’ve completed our training and have been deputized as “first-generation Sibshop facilitators.” We may now go forth and play.
Check out siblingsupport.org for more details than I can share in one post.
This is an amazing adventure and I’m so excited to be part of it! Stay tuned for upcoming details, dates and locations (in Maine) of our first Sibshop!
Also, a special plea: Adult sibs really make a Sibshop. It means so much for a young sib to get to see “older and wiser” versions of themselves. If you’re an adult sib, or know of one, and want to be a part of the magic, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to connect with you.