Encompass Blog

Sibshops: A space of their own for siblings of children with special needs

January 16, 2020  |  Family Enrichment, Pediatric Therapy  |  By Sandra "Sam" Sinanan

little girl pushing her brother in a wheelchair

If you have a child with developmental delays, disabilities or other special needs, there will be impacts on other children in your home, especially elementary-aged kids. Your typically-developing children may wonder why the rules are different for their brother or sister, or they may get brought along to weekly medical appointments with their sibling. For young children, it may be challenging for them to understand the complexities of the situation or to know what to do about the emotions they may be feeling.

Siblings are most likely to have the longest lasting relationships with each other, and nurturing this relationship is invaluable. One way parents can help is by providing your typically-developing kids with opportunities to meet other siblings who understand the uniquely good and challenging parts of having a brother or sister with special needs. Sibshops, a sibling peer-support group, offers such an opportunity.

Sibshops are fun, social events for typically-developing siblings of children with special needs, developmental delays, disabilities, or who are receiving pediatric therapy services. The goal of these meetings is to provide peer support, guidance, information, and camaraderie in a lively, recreational setting. Recognizing that being a brother or sister of a person with special needs has unique ups and downs, Sibshops offer a variety of great opportunities for siblings to celebrate their contributions and talk with peers who “get it.” Sibshops can provide a safe environment for typically-developing siblings to relax and release some of the stress of their lives, as one past Encompass Sibshops participant describes: “It felt like bricks were being lifted up off my shoulders.”

To learn more about Sibshops at Encompass, visit the Sibshops page on our website. For those outside our service area, there are over 400 Sibshops in almost every state and countries ranging from Argentina to Iceland and Ireland. To find a Sibshops program near you, visit the Sibling Support Project’s website see a directory of registered Sibshops.

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