On the very first page of Sibshops: Workshops for siblings of children with special needs, Sibshops are described this way:
For the adults who plan them and the agencies that sponsor them, Sibshops are best described as opportunities for brothers and sisters of children with special health and developmental needs to obtain peer support and education within a recreational context. They often reflect an agency’s commitment to the well- being of the family member most likely to have the longest-lasting relationship with the person with special needs.
However, for the young people who attend them and the energetic people who run them, Sibshops are best described as events. Sibshops are lively, pedal-to-the-metal celebrations of the many contributions made by brothers and sisters of kids with special needs. Sibshops acknowledge that being the brother or sister of a person with special needs is for some a good thing, for others a not-so-good thing, and for many somewhere in between. They reflect a belief that brothers and sisters have much to offer one another—if they are given a chance. The Sibshop model intersperses information and discussion activities with new games (designed to be unique, offbeat, and appealing to a wide ability range), cooking and art activities, and special guests…Well run, Sibshops are as fun and rewarding for the people who host them as they are for the participants.
Sibshops seek to provide siblings with opportunities for peer support. Because Sibshops are designed for school-age children, peer support is provided within a lively, recreational context that emphasizes a kids’-eye view.
Sibshops are not therapy, group or otherwise, although their effect may be therapeutic for some children. Sibshops acknowledge that most brothers and sisters of people with special needs, like their parents, are doing well, despite the challenges of an illness or disability. Consequently, while Sibshop facilitators always keep an eye open for participants who may need additional services, the Sibshop model takes a wellness approach.
Sibshops should also never be confused with childcare. Sometimes, agencies wish to offer Sibshops concurrently with parent support meetings. While this “two ring” approach is acceptable, agencies will need to add a “third ring”: childcare for the children who have special needs and for the typically developing siblings who are either not in the target age range or simply do not wish to be a part of your Sibshop.
- should be decidedly fun to attend;
- provide peer support and information within a recreational context;
- may be “therapeutic” to attend but are not therapy, group or otherwise;
- utilize an approach that emphasizes wellness; and
- should never be considered childcare.