To listen, go to
(Harriet’s words start at about 5:00)
APPLETON, WI—If you take a close look at Harriet Redman you will realize she is a woman of incredible wisdom and strength. This is first and foremost because she raised a son born in 1992 with a rare chromosomal abnormality that affected Phillip’s ability to walk, speak, and meet many developmental milestones. Harriet and her family, which included older sibling Christiana, were determined that Phillip be an involved and included member of the family and one day, while playing their special version of soccer, Christiana vocalized a very adult thought for a seven year old: “What will happen one day when you and Daddy die?”
It’s a question many siblings of special needs kids will have, but fear to express, and it led to the founding of the non-profit organization WisconSibs (which happened officially in 1998.) Since then, this noteworthy organization has continued to grow, launch or partner in programs, and provide the circle of support that is so vital to the siblings of children diagnosed with conditions. When a child has a mental, medical, genetic or developmental diagnosis, it disrupts the family–their time, budgets, attention, energy, sleep, careers, etc. Siblings, although they love to help, can experience guilt or short-term resentment. With the support of an organization like WisconSibs, which provides help across Wisconsin, siblings learn to develop resiliency, natural leadership skills, and coping strategies. Most importantly, Harriet says, they realize they are not the only ones in this crazy position, and that’s utterly empowering.
WisconSibs provides many different programs that help children ages 6 to 12 to feel supported, talk about their roles, face doubts, and learn what to expect as both siblings grow into adults. One of those programs is Sibshop, an award-winning workshop that was first launched by Don Meyer in Seattle, Washington. They also run summer camp programs, both day and sleepover, where siblings discuss concerns and joys while having fun, engaging in recreation, and getting the respite time that is important to everyone in the family. WisconSibs also engages families in activities that help create awareness or raise funds such as the Sibs are My Peeps contest which recreates family engagement using the marshmallow candies. Recently, they began to test a new program geared to siblings from ages 3 to 5, so they can learn to understand and express what happens in their families.
In her radio show, Harriet is going to talk about these various programs, how and why her organization was founded, and home in on the crucial role that siblings have when someone in the family has an illness or disability. She will also stress how important it is for society and service providers to embrace the needs of the sibling (and not just the client or parents ) We salute her for her brave efforts and look forward to learning all she has to share–including how motivated people can donate to this wonderful non-profit!