Being a sibling of an individual with autism presents a number of unique challenges and opportunities. To address the needs of this essential population, The Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support at Saint Joseph’s University will begin offering Sibshops, workshops designed to help brothers and sisters talk about their struggles and successes, learn to serve as a role models, and manage common situations. The Sibshops meet one Friday night each month for three hours, beginning in February.
Sibshops were developed by the Sibling Support Project, a national effort dedicated to the concerns of brothers and sisters of people with special health, developmental and mental health concerns. The Kinney Center is the first in the area to offer autism-specific Sibshops.
"With the primary focus on the child with autism, care of the sibling is often overlooked,” says Michelle Rowe, Ph.D., executive director of the Kinney Center and professor of health services. “This workshop provides ways to help siblings cope.”
Brothers and sisters, ages 6 to 12, of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may apply to attend the Sibshops. The program is facilitated by a master’s level social worker with the assistance of Kinney SCHOLARS, undergraduate SJU students who are trained and supervised by a certified behavior analyst and a licensed psychologist. Sibshops will run concurrently with the Kinney Center’s Kids Night Out program, which provides parents a night out while their child with ASD engages in social growth and activity.
The program fee of $35 per child must be paid two weeks prior to the program date to guarantee placement. The Kinney Center offers a sibling discount to families with more than one child enrolled in the same program or concurrent programs at the Kinney Center. Snacks will be provided.
For more information or to register, visit http://kinneyautism.sju.edu/services/Sibshops.html.
“Siblings are the family members who will have the longest relationship with their brother or sister with ASD,” adds Theresa Gill, associate director of community outreach for the Kinney Center. “It is so important to provide siblings an outlet like this to share their feelings and concerns.”
On May 4 and 5, the Kinney Center will host Don Meyer, director of the Sibling Support Project and founder of the Supporting Extended Family Members (SEFAM) Program at the University of Washington. Meyer is the nation’s leading trainer and educator on sibling support. Parents, service providers and others interested in becoming a trained Sibshop facilitator are welcome to register for the event. Details of his visit are being finalized.
About the Kinney Center: With its roots in the Jesuit mission of service and cura personalis, or care for the whole person, the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support seeks to address the needs of those who struggle day-to-day with autism, either as individuals or caregivers. The mission of the Kinney Center is to provide multi-disciplinary education and research opportunities for students, teachers, professionals, and parents who seek to improve and extend opportunities, outcomes, quality of life and best practices in treatment for people with ASD. The Kinney Center offers services, resources, and information; support and guidance; and tools for public and individual advocacy that contribute to improved autism awareness and care.