Today, after two days of meeting with teachers and families, we began our parent and sibling support groups and we couldn’t be happier with the results. The siblings, ages 6-17, came in ready to learn and share their experiences. After the siblings went around and shared fun facts about themselves based on the colors of the candies in the bags they received, we challenged them to line up according to their ages without speaking. One sibling, Hamudeh, quickly took up a leadership position and began organizing the others according to the number of fingers they were holding up.
We then introduced the siblings to our unicorn mascot and asked them, “How many of you knew someone else who has a sibling with autism before today.” Not a single sibling raised their hands. Using the unicorn, we had siblings make statements about the things that their siblings with autism do. For example, Rawa said, “My sister with autism is very smart and has a good memory.” 7 others agreed with this statement and put their hands up and Rajeh caught the unicorn and said, “When my sibling with autism gets angry, he sometimes cries and breaks things.” Almost every hand in room went up in agreement.
(Parent and Sibling Support groups and the sibling support group’s unicorn mascot)
The siblings noted that they were surprised by how many others had shared their experiences. They were engaged and excited to tell stories about their lives and openly shared their questions about autism in our discussion that wrapped up the day. Here are some of the questions the siblings asked us:
-Why don’t some children with autism talk? -Layan, age 11
-Is there a cure for autism? -Sama, age 12
-Why were children with autism born this way? -Dania, age 10
-Why does my brother with autism spin all the time? -Odai, age 12
-Why does my sister with autism pull my hair when she gets angry? -Sami, age 7
-Why does my sister with autism grab my hand to tell me when she wants something? -Hamudeh, age 8
Every time we run this program, the siblings have more insightful questions than the parents, teachers or any other group! We look forward to answering their questions in the coming weeks.
What they love about their siblings:
“I love my sister because she is cute and kind.”-Layan, age 10
“If I had unlimited money, I would establish a charity for children with autism where they can get the help and support they need for free.”-Sama, age 12
“I like my brother with autism because I can tell him stories and he plays with me.”-Abed, age 7
“I want to learn how to support my brother and how to interact with him so that I can understand the things he does and be his friend.” -Odai, age 12