Sibshops: See a local support group that helps the sibling of a child with a disability

Connecticut Families

(WTNH) — “It’s definitely an underserved population,” says Becca Souza, speaking of the siblings of children with disabilities – children who have a complicated role, filled with dueling emotions.

Souza works with The Miracle League of Connecticut which has partnered with a national effort called Sibshops.

“It’s a group for kids with siblings who have special needs to come together in a safe place,” says Souza, a facilitator of the program.

News 8 sat-in during a demo session of Sibshops. Meetings are a chance for kids ages 8 to 13 to talk, in confidence, about their complex role.

“Their feelings sometimes are hard to discuss with parents. You never want to put more burden on your parents,” explains Mike Michaud, Executive Director of The Miracle League of Connecticut. “So, sometimes you just internalize but Sibshops is a great place to talk about it.”

Part 1 of the Kaminski family’s story: How to help a sibling of a child with a disability deal with responsibility and emotions

Through exercises, like one called ‘Dear Aunt Blabby’, the group looks at familiar scenarios that could unfold at home and trade ideas for solutions. The kids realize they’re not alone. Peer support is everything.

“The first time we picked him up from Sibshops, he gets in my truck and says, ‘Oh, I didn’t know there were other kids like me,’” says Adam and Jamie Kaminski of their son Gavin.

Gavin’s younger brother, Quaid, has autism. Sibshops has helped him enormously.

“I didn’t realize how much Gavin needed it until we did it,” says Jamie.

There are seven Sibshops groups in the state in places like Hartford, New Haven and Norwalk. The Miracle League of Connecticut’s seven month session ends with a fun field trip that’s poignant.

“Many times, if they’re with their sibling with special needs, it’s about them and how much they can tolerate. So, we try to give them a day that’s just about them,” says Michaud.

The Kaminskis want Gavin to someday spread his wings but they know being Quaid’s brother will always be a big part of his life. Gavin says it’s his reality – a reality filled with love and pride: “I hope he has a good life and keeps learning. I just want him to have a happy life.”

The Miracle League of Connecticut starts-up a new Sibshops group in mid-October. Click here for more information.

WEB EXTRA: Becca Souza Sibshops Facilitator and Mike Michaud,The Miracle League of Connecticut, on how a support group helps siblings find peer understanding

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