>Last week Northwest Special Families hosted the first Sibshop event of the school year. Sibshops are opportunities for elementary-aged brothers and sisters of children with special needs to come together in a fun environment to receive support and education.

NSF has facilitated Sibshops in the Northshore School District since 2006. During that time, dozens of students have gathered regularly at Woodmoor Elementary to play games, participate in fun activities, and reflect on their experiences living with a brother or sister with special needs.

25 students in kindergarten through sixth grade attended last week’s Sibshop. An additional four students, teenagers who had attended Sibshop in previous years, volunteered to lead the kids in activities and reflection.

One activity at this Sibshop was a series of ‘disability awareness’ stations, where the students participated in activities designed to help them understand what it feels like to live with certain disabilities. Kids tried out a wheelchair and crutches, wrote messages in braille, and tried to walk a straight line while their vision was obscured. At a station designed to imitate fine motor delays, children put on large rubber gloves and then tried to button a shirt or tie shoes. Several students made comments like, “This must be how my sister feels when I touch her. Now I understand why she is uncomfortable.” and “My brother has a disability like this.” Participants also watched a video panel and read books featuring kids with disabilities, participated in an interview about the highlights of Sibshops, ate dinner and played together. Several kids and volunteers remarked that this was the ‘BEST Sibshop ever!’

Two more Sibshops will be held this school year: one in February and one in April. For more information visit NSF’s website at www.northwestspecialfamilies.org or register on their Big Tent site: www.bigtent.com/groups/nsfgroup.