Home > Community Support > AsIAm Community Seminar: Autism and Sibshops 11/09/2019

AsIAm Community Seminar: Autism and Sibshops 11/09/2019

Michael opened the night and introducing our two presenters, Liz Fitzpatrick & Linda Foley.
Linda and Liz  are Founders of Sibshop Ireland and both are Registered Nurse. Additionally, Liz Fitzpatrick is a Montessori teacher.  Liz began by outlining growing networks of services for autism. She even spoke of the growing social networks of parents, but noticed no such network for siblings.  Liz recommended that this be rectified. Supporting this, she argued siblings of autistic children will have the longest relationship of anyone else in  their life. This will last longer than a parent, and longer than any service provider.
She proceeded to list common concerns seen in siblings of autistic family members. They included difficulty in getting attention from parents, feeling a need to ‘explain’ their sibling’s behaviour, feelings of embarrassment and even guilt for said embarrassment. Liz added that not all siblings will be as educated about autism as their parents, which may lead to feelings of confusion and even isolation. In time, she argued, parents can counter this by sharing Individualised Education Plans. This keeps the children  in the loop on their sibling’s progress. She then proceeded to outline positive traits in these same siblings such as tolerance, compassion, resilience, humour and maturity.

Michael initiating the seminar

Sibshop sessions, Linda explained, are 80% interactive games and 20% discussion. Aimed at a 8-12 age demographic, the sessions encourage the children to discuss autism in a lighthearted environment. Linda stressed that while the sessions are not therapy their ultimate effect is therapeutic. The siblings share common experiences, concerns and feelings.  She noted that certain feelings might be easier to share with a peer than with a parent.
The children express feelings through a board covered with emojis for describing situations. There’s also a rainbow of wishes for our siblings, where the children can make wishes for their siblings (one child wished for an SNA!) The sessions boast impressive feedback, with 100 out of 101 children saying they’d attend again (one maybe.) They also noted many children made lasting friends from Sibshops and enjoyed having peers they didn’t need to keep explaining autism to.
The talk ended with a discussion of what siblings want, based on the sessions. Crucially, both speakers noted that a child is more likely to follow a parent’s reaction to autism than any definitions of the condition. Therefore, the opportunity to get information on autism which is age appropriate was one. Linda suggested books about neurodivergence for children to serve this purpose. Children also wanted their concerns acknowledged and not dismissed. Both speakers encouraged dialogue with children about expectations and roles within the family. Liz noted that for a variety of reasons neurotypical girls in the family tend to do more work than their male counterparts and encouraged the audience to keep this in mind. She suggested making sure chores are given to every member of the family so the siblings aren’t made to feel they are shouldering everything.

Linda showing the rainbow of wishes used for discussion activities

Linda noted that the children in Sibshops reacted well when they hearing they were special. It seemed they hadn’t been hearing it enough. The child’s individuality should be acknowledged and nurtured by everyone. Medical professionals shouldn’t refer to siblings as “X’s brother/sister” but by their name. The basic point came down to a need to find time and attention for every child in the house, no matter their ability.
If you want more information, look at the slides we’ve uploaded here:

Sibshop Sibling support Presentation 

by - 12 September, 2019

Last updated by - October 10, 2019

in Community Support, Family Life, Healthcare, Medical, Meltdowns, Mental Health, Support Group, Supports

Can this be improved? Contact webeditor@asiam.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.
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