Sibshops offer outlet for siblings of special needs kidsWritten by Jay Hathaway | | email@example.com
For siblings of kids with special needs, it is not always easy to find outlets to express their feelings or to vent about the frustrations of their situations. However, an upcoming series of workshops can provide them an opportunity to do so — while having fun in the process.
Sibshops is an internationally known mix of recreational activities, games, discussion and other activities for children ages 9-15 who have siblings with special needs. The workshops, sponsored by the Educational Service Center (ESC) of Lake Erie West, take place at the Alternate Learning Center, 3939 Wrenwood Road, in Toledo.
The first meeting will be held 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 5. Additional meetings are set for Nov. 2, Jan. 11, Feb.1 and March 1. The meetings are free.
Wendy Smenner is a parent mentor at the ESC. Three years ago, she and others took part in a Toledo area training session offered by Don Meyer, the founder of Sibshops, and began hosting their own sessions shortly thereafter.
The theme of Sibshops is one near to Smenner’s heart as a parent of two sons — one a “typical” child and one with special needs.
“I relate to the issues and concerns that these sibs deal with day in and day out and, as a parent, it affects my life every day,” she said.
Smenner emphasized many siblings experience anger because they do not understand some of the special treatment such children may demand, which can lead to a feeling of being left out.
“It can be frustrating for them. They sometimes wonder why their [siblings] are the way they are, or why they need so much special attention,” she said.
She added that it may be difficult for kids to empathize with their siblings’ special needs conditions, which is something Sibshops aims to amend.
One of the activities replicates what it might be like to have a disability. For example, participants may have to use walkers or wheelchairs for the day or try to function while experiencing vision or hearing impairment.
“It puts them in their siblings’ shoes, and they say, ‘Whoa, this is really hard,’ and they start relating to them,” Smenner said.
Smenner said that while Sibshops do not focus on parents as much as siblings, workshops have been held in the past to help parents understand the needs of all their children. She added that the ESC offers a variety of workshops and activities based on the Sibshops philosophy, including a mix of guest speakers, bowling outings and other community activities.
“A lot of the kids I’ve had come back year after year, so I have to switch it up because I don’t want them to get bored,” she said.
Sibshops also helps connect kids with other kids who understand their situations or have had similar experiences, Smenner said.
“These kids can get together and share their frustrations and their concerns — and the good parts, too — with other kids that get it. They know they’re not the only ones out there feeling this.”
For more information or to register, call Smenner at (419) 214-3066, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.