As a sibling of a person with disability I would like my experience to be shared and to raise an awareness that us as siblings require support. Support that is vastly different to that which our siblings are accessing.
There are only a handful of people who truly understand this life, apart from the parents, grandparents and guardians of People with Disability. There are a chosen group of us that are siblings. We learn early on in life that our childhoods are enriched and challenged in vastly different ways to those of our peers.
Christmas is usually a time of exciting anticipation, joy, a time for peace on earth and goodwill to all… Unless you are the sibling of someone that lives with Autism. This day is filled with your sibling’s stress, major change in the daily routine, sensory overload, screaming and meltdowns.
This is just a personal example of one of many days in the lives of families all over Australia that go untold. While the other children in the street sit with their families unwrapping gifts and sipping on early morning coffee, my parents scrambled to make peace, ensure the gifts for us children remain intact and the noise of the day does not cause the neighbours to phone the police.
On the flip side, my sister has grown into a real character, a sister no one could possibly ever ask for on paper. She is funny, quirky, blunt and always tells the truth… about everything, yes everything.
I spent some of my school holidays attending sibling support groups. These were programs that were structured for siblings of PWD. They were usually held in a camp-style environment or function building led by youth workers specialising in this area.
My brother and I enjoyed attending these camps as we felt connected and with ‘our people’. Other children with a silent understanding of how different our lives were to other children our age. This provided us with a sense of unity, building up our self-esteem and providing us with a chance to discuss our lives and sibs in a safe and supportive environment.
During one of our sessions the task was to draw a portrait of our sister highlighting all of the things that make her unique. In the border I sketched all five or so foods she loved to eat on rotation. This was her thing, her obsession with food. She was happiest when she was in her food bubble.
I feel very lucky to blog personal stories, and to have a career involved with advocating for others on this journey in turn is very special. I have my sister to thank for fuelling the fire that has led me to these opportunities and this interest of all things disability related.
Recently I began researching programs that families on the Sunshine Coast could access providing a similar program and came across Siblings Australia.
Director and founder of Siblings Australia, Kate Strohm, and I, began emailing so that I could share the services provided by this valuable organisation with you in this blog.
‘Siblings Australia’ established by Kate in 1999 has developed a national and international reputation for her work with siblings, families and professionals. She is also the author of Siblings; Brothers and Sisters of Children with Disability (2014, revised edition).
Kate provides two-and-a-half hour Skype sessions available to those residing in QLD, and face to face seminars for those living in Adelaide. Sessions facilitated by Kate can be claimed via participants NDIS funding as a registered provider in the Development of Daily Living and Life Skills line item within the NDIS price guide.
Discussions within Kate’s sessions can assist your children to better understand their sibling’s disability, express concerns, feel competent and valued, not take on too much responsibility, develop strategies to manage difficult situations and so much more.
If you are interested in finding out more about Siblings Australia or are interested in the book published by Kate, you can find the link to their website here: http://siblingsaustralia.org.au/
Further information on services that can assist siblings and families access programs including those that have been specifically designed for families can also be found via this publication released by the Queensland Government Department of Education, Training and Employment: https://education.qld.gov.au/student/Documents/sibling-support.doc