By Kodey Toney
A Family Affair
I'm writing this on Father's Day, and though I could write all day about how great my father was, or reflect on the fact that my wife is a huge asset to my parenting skills, like I did around Mother's Day, I want to stop and focus on another family member. This is someone I've mentioned several times, but rarely get a chance to focus on. I was reminded of this all weekend as my wife and I, along with our friend Shelley Johnson, traveled to Oklahoma City for a Sibshop training.
We were reminded that the siblings of children with disabilities are all too often lost in the shuffle. This of course is not intentional, but there is a certain amount of focus that a child with special needs must receive.
Konner's younger brother Kruz provides the yen to his sibling's yang. He's the comic relief, the loving child, and just annoying enough to be the perfect little brother, and I should know I was that little one.
What most people forget, and I was reminded this weekend, is that the sibling is often the one person who spends most of their lifespan close to the person with a disability. These are the people who will eventually take over the care of that person when the parent has passed on.
They often grow up faster than they should, take over more responsibility within the family, and add more stress on their lives to be perfect. They usually feel they need to over compensate for their sibling's disability.
This is why my cohorts and I spent two days learning to work with those sometimes forgotten members of the family. We realize that they need time to themselves. They need to know that they are just as important to the family as any other member.
Sibshops is an international organization that works to shine that light on the siblings and give them an outlet for their own fun time, and now there will be one in eastern Oklahoma. The Pervasive Parenting Center, along with Sooner Success, is sponsoring the program, which will include workshops at least once a month throughout the school year. We are looking to hold these workshops in LeFlore, Sequoyah, and Haskell counties, though the details haven't been ironed out yet.
This will be open to any child who has a sibling with special needs. This can mean developmental, physical, or mental disability.
The children will play some games, meet other siblings, have some great discussion sessions, and have some food and refreshments.
Though the program is not a therapy session, the kids will have a chance to voice their issues confidentially with others who understand their problems.
This program was created by Don Meyer, of Seattle, Washington. He travels around the world trading facilitators to understand the special needs of this group if family members, and helping others understand their importance to the family structure, and eventually the future of the person with needs.
If you are interested in your child attending a workshop, or you would like to volunteer please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out the Sibshop tab on the website, www.pervasiveparentingcenter.org.