Siblings of People Living With Disability/Chronic Illness

Siblings of people living with disability/chronic illness experience a life journey, marked by both enriching moments and challenges. Siblings often credit their unique upbringing for the valuable skills learnt and strong bonds formed. 

So how can we best support our Sibs? 
Siblings Australia was founded in 1999 by Kate Strohm in the Department of Psychological Medicine at the Women’s & Children’s Hospital in Adelaide. In 2024, Siblings Australia celebrates 25 years of providing supports, programs and advocacy for siblings nationally. As the only organisation to focus solely on delivering programs, support and advocacy to siblings of children and adults with disability/chronic illness, Siblings Australia have built a reputation both nationally and internationally for their work with siblings, their families and professionals. 

Research shows that supporting siblings diminishes isolation, empowers them to better handle challenges and have the emotional intelligence to forge strong bonds. Support for parents enhances family ties by improving communication and parental awareness, fostering increased confidence and nurtures the sibling bond. Early intervention shows positive influences on the long-term social and emotional well-being of both, people living with disabilities/chronic illness and their siblings.

How can Siblings Australia help me or my family?

Children aged 4 - 12 years:

Alex and Arlo: A Sibling Story, was written to help young sibling children (aged 4-7 years) feel less alone in their experiences, and to provide reassurance that there are others out there who understand how they feel. ‘Alex and Arlo’ takes readers through the various experiences Alex faces as a sibling to her younger brother Arlo, who has a disability. We encourage parents/caregivers to read the story with a sibling child, and to also take the time to reflect together on Alex’s experiences and the coping strategies she uses.

KidSibs: Coming Soon – We know how important it is to start conversations and supports for young siblings aged between 5 and 12 years. That’s why are developing our KidSib website, purely focused on providing young siblings with the tools and resources to help them navigate their sibling journey. A combination of fun games, entertaining video’s and of course helpful information and resources, SibKids is designed for sibling children.

SibWorks: A peer support program for siblings aged 8-12. Facilitated by professionals in the health, education, disability or community services sectors whose work brings them into contact with siblings of children with disability. The program is designed to support siblings by building their emotional wellbeing and resilience, and connecting with others who share the same experience. Upon completion of the course, children who take part will:

  • understand more about disability and functional challenge
  • feel less alone
  • know new ways to deal with tricky feelings
  • have practiced coping skills they can use in their lives
  • feel more positive about themselves as siblings

Teens aged from 12 years up to 18 years:

TeenSibs: National online and in-person (currently for Adelaide based teens) peer groups provide an opportunity for teens aged from 12 years up to 18 years to connect with other teens who understand the sibling experience. Our peer groups provide the opportunity for TeenSibs to connect and exchange experiences in a fun and safe environment. We recognise that sometimes, no one understands a sib like another sib, so why not connect with people who understand the sibling experience better than anyone. Here some other TeenSib experiences in this video If you are interested in joining our TeenSib Peer Groups, you can register HERE

Adults aged 18+

SibWise: Designed for parents, health care workers, educators or disability professionals who care for, support or come into contact with siblings of children with disability. This learning program will assist people to better understand and respond to sibling needs and challenges.

SibConnect: National, state based, peer support groups that provide an opportunity for siblings to connect in person, and exchange experiences and provide mutual support, whether that be over a coffee or game of bowling. Recognising that, sometimes, ‘no-one understands a sib like another sib’.  This program provides opportunities for siblings to connect with others who understand the sibling experience better than anyone.

SibChat: An online private chat group (hosted on Facebook) exclusively for adult siblings to find support and connect with others who understand the sibling experience. Provides an opportunity for siblings to connect online in a moderated forum and exchange experiences and provide mutual support.

SibPlan: Built from the sibling perspective, our SibPlan website provides tools and resources for adult siblings who are future planning with their brother or sister with disability. With a focus on supportive decision making and preserving natural relationships, SibPlan is for siblings who may be at the beginning of their planning journey or at a point of crisis – we are here for all stages of the sibling journey. SibPlan will give adult siblings guidance on services and supports they can access at transitional junctures in their, or their siblings lives, as the supports for their brother or sister change or grow. While Siblings Australia is focused on maintaining the natural relationship between siblings, we are aware that for adult siblings, changes in circumstances can lead to new challenges. We want to be able to support this transition as best we can.

NOTE: SibWorks and TeenSib activity days may be funded through their siblings NDIS plan under the NDIS Capacity building supports, where a participants goals include: 

  • Support to improve my families wellbeing.
  • Support for my sibling to build their capacity to better understand and interact with me in order to strengthen our relationship.
  • Support to improve my siblings capability to provide me with peer learning opportunities which will help me develop social interaction and communication skills.

If you do not have this funding included in your plan and are thinking this may be suitable for your family please contact the NDIS on 1800 800 110 to discuss
including this in your plan. 
For more information and to see all programs available for Siblings please visit the Siblings Australia Website.