Sibz - Supporting the Siblings of Children with Disabilities

Posted on 18 November 2015 by Emma Leunig

Three boys sitting outside next to each other and smiling at the camera.

Most of us are lucky enough to experience sibling rivalry, and I say “lucky” because it is part and parcel of having a brother or sister. I both love and hate my brother at times, and I know I drive him crazy. But imagine if communicating with your sibling was challenging or they couldn’t reciprocate your feelings (even the positive ones).

Life throws us all challenges, but being the brother or sister of a young person with a disability has its own added set of pressures. There can be the pressure to do well at school, sport, art, music or pretty much anything you try, the added responsibilities and having to act like an adult before you even reach double figures in age, having to be ‘good’ all the time because your parents have their hands full already, managing your mixed emotions, or missing out on ‘normal kid stuff’ because your parents just don’t have the time, energy, money.

It can be hard sometimes to be the sibling of someone with a disability. That’s why we run MacKillop’s Siblings Program known as Sibz. Sibz is for children and young people who have a brother or sister with a disability.

Unfortunately the siblings of a child with a disability are a forgotten cohort of people needing support. Do a search for support programs for parents, carers or people with a disability and you’ll find many options. If you look for support for siblings your choices drastically drop. Siblings don’t fall into the disability or ‘at risk’ categories so they can fall through the gaps.

Sibz provides siblings who, due to their brother or sister’s high support needs, may have limited access to social groups and fun recreational opportunities. It allows them to experience something that is especially for them. Sibz runs on donations and the staff volunteer their time.

Sibz aims to:

  • run activities for siblings that enable them to interact with children their own age and form strong friendships
  • provide a social network where young people have something in common (a brother/sister with a disability) and can take ownership of their own group away from family and other friends
  • provide a nurturing environment where participants are comfortable to be themselves and have freedom to grow and learn
  • contribute to the development of young peoples’ skills, self-efficacy and self-esteem
  • provide a non-formal approach to groups where all participants feel that they make the greatest contributions and feel safe, respected, and equal
  • provide the siblings with another trusted adult to discuss their thoughts and feelings

In a nutshell, Sibz provides young people the opportunity to spend time with other kids who are experiencing similar situations, make some new friends and learn some new skills. It’s a chance for them to be like any other kid without the added responsibilities of caring for their sibling or helping around at home, with other kids who are experiencing similar situations.

(And if my brother is reading this, I do love him.)

For more information about MacKillop’s Sibz program contact (03) 9680 8444.