Sibshops are pretty amazing things!
We’ve held two at this point, and my only complaint is that they’re poorly attended. Maybe we’re not doing enough to get the word out.
Sibshops are a celebration of the life-long commitment and unique relationship that neurotypical kids have with their special needs brothers and sisters. They can be therapeutic, but aren’t therapy. They’re high energy, fun, workshops where kids get to meet and play with other kids who share similar experiences.
On Friday, we had an excellent, though small group. We began with a mobile art project. As the kids filtered in, they grabbed some odd-shaped cuts of poster paper with some lines on them. The kids colored their pieces in whatever way made them happy. Once all the kids were done, we pieced the shapes together to reveal the hidden message: Awesome!
The kids knew immediately what the point of the exercise was: individually, we’re all very different, but when we stick together, the result is awesome!
We played lots of running around games, and kept the energy level high. But it wasn’t all games and exercise. We played a few games that foster reflection and communication, which can be great tools to use when getting kids to realize how similar their situations are to others. This one event, called Strengths and Weaknesses, asked the kids to interview someone else in the group and ask about that child’s strengths and weaknesses, but also to list some strengths and weaknesses about their sibling with special needs. It was an important discussion that helped show that even the “normal” kids have weaknesses, and their siblings have strengths, despite the fact that they each carry a diagnosis, or struggle with some aspect of life. This never gets too deep – remember, it’s not Dr. Phil. I’ll share my son, Gabriel’s weakness: “I’m not very good at thinking up weaknesses about myself.” If he doesn’t take after me, nobody does.
I share this with you for a couple of reasons.
1. Sibshops are a fantastic way for kids to meet other kids, and to help them feel less alone as they learn to cope with and care for their siblings with needs.
2. Sibshops are funner with more kids! If you know of a child (or have a child who’s a Sib), who would benefit from coming to a Sibshop in Medway or Houlton, ME, contact me at ryan@bigcalfguy or leave me a comment below. Our ages are 8-12, and the cost is only $5 for a two hour Sibshop.
3. Training for Sibshop facilitators, and sponsorship for these programs, which occur all across the state of Maine, comes from funds raised by the Autism Society of Maine. All the money they raise through the year goes towards funding programming like this for those who need it; and it stays right here in Maine. The ASM’s Walk for Autism is fast approaching (April 27), and we’re walking again this year as Jake’s Team. Please donate if you can. There’s still time, it’s tax deductable, and it’s for a worthy cause.