Hinted in its name, Sibshops are workshops for young siblings (or “sibs”) of people with
disabilities. From a child’s perspective, Sibshops are fun opportunities for sibs to meet and play with other kids who understand what it is like to have a sibling with disabilities. At a deeper level, Sibshops are essential spaces for sibs to mitigate current and future issues by finding companions who know how to celebrate the joys of being a sib and support one another through the challenges.
Earlier this summer, WisconSibs hosted a facilitator training offered by Emily Holl of the Sibling Support Project. The training outlined the deep and impactful aspects of being a sib, explaining why Sibshops are essential. As Emily stated in her presentation, many sibs struggle with a lack of information about their sibling’s disability, isolation, embarrassment, guilt, increased caregiving expectations, resentment, immense pressure to achieve, and concerns about the future. Sibs feel alone even while celebrating their sibling’s developments such as learning to walk and talk because other kids do not understand the hours of work and encouragement that go into these milestones. With so many concerns to navigate, sibs need a community that can actively listen to what they have to say and know how to respond with empathy and advice or join in the celebration. The only community that will just “get it” is a community of other sibs who have similar experiences. Sibshops are thoughtfully designed and facilitated to create such a community.
One of WisconSibs’s latest Sibshops happened in Madison, an area that is still growing in sibling support. Most of the attendees had never been to a Sibshop before and were unfamiliar with the idea of discussing their unique joys and challenges with other sibs. I had the opportunity to help facilitate the Sibshop and observed the kids’ faces light up in recognition as the leader read discussion prompts about what “bugs” sibs about having a sibling with a disability. The kids were so eager to share their experiences and became excited when they realized others in the room had experienced the same situations and emotions as well. WisconSibs is working hard to ensure that this last Sibshop will not be the one and only time these kids have the opportunity to find such meaningful connections.
I am thankful that WisconSibs has created sibling communities like the one that begun in Madison for the past 27 years! The 200+ programs have helped meet the needs of 3,400 sibs.
Sibshops meet the serious and immediate needs of child sibs. Growing up with a sibling who has a disability has positive effects like increased maturity, responsibility, and willingness to advocate for others but at a difficult cost. Sibshop facilitators recognize the difficulty through which sibs forge their positive traits and encourage sibs to then feel confident in using those traits for good. At a community event this past June, a parent of a sib approached the WisconSib’s booth and was brought to tears after discovering the opportunities and support that is available for her son. She expressed how difficult it has been to find a community in which her son is fully seen, heard, and understood. Sibshops exist for families like this one, to help parents secure the well-being of all of their children, and develop a community of sibs who see, hear, and understand each other.
WisconSibs is on a mission to serve the needs of siblings throughout the entire state of Wisconsin. Increasingly, WisconSibs is facilitating Sibshops and other events beyond the Fox Valley, with cities like Madison, Green Bay, and Stevens Point as target areas for growth. WisconSibs hosted the latest Sibshop in Madison’s Henry Villas Zoo and is already on the lookout for more fun Madison locations. An important factor in the planning of Sibshops is the type of space in which the Sibshop is offered. Locations such as rock climbing gyms, butterfly gardens, and swimming pools inspire themed discussions and activities and offer an opportunity for businesses to hear about siblings’ needs and join in the mission to provide support. Creating a community of sibs within their wider community increases awareness and deepens relationships, resulting in a healthier space for sibs and non-sibs alike!
If you know a sib who would benefit from joining a larger community of sibs, check out the “Events Calendar” at wisconsibs.org to find and register for upcoming Sibshops.
If you have any questions or recommendations for future Sibshopsz, email us at [email protected] or call (920)-968-1742. Thank you for helping us support siblings!
WisconSibs Board announces Ann Sickon as
The WisconSibs, Inc Board of Directors is excited to announce Ann Sickon (sigh’-kon), of Middleton, as the second Executive Director of WisconSibs, Inc.
Sickon was most recently the Executive Director, and then the Senior Executive Advisor of the Center for Independent Futures (CIF),Evanston, IL, an Illinois-based nonprofit organization dedicated to creating innovative product and service models that give individuals with disabilities and their families the skills and opportunities to realize full lives. Ann has degrees from Loyola University Chicago, University of Michigan-Flint, and Henry Ford Hospital School of Nursing.
Having a sister with disabilities herself, Ann brings immense passion and understanding to this position. She is a parent of two adult daughters living in Madison, and a son attending the Cutting Edge Program at Edgewood College. She will fulfill her duties as Executive Director both in Appleton and remotely from Middleton.
Earlier this year, Harriet Redman, who founded the organization 25 years ago announced her retirement as Executive Director. She will continue in an advisory role as Sickon gets acquainted with the operations, participants, and collaborators and serve as the Director of Special Projects part-time. She will continue to advocate with and for siblings, locally and nationally.
Harriet received the Don Meyer Award honoring her deep commitment to supporting siblings of people with disabilities and her innovative sibling programs and solutions. The award itself was created by artists with developmental disabilities and presented at the national Sibling Leadership Network conference this past summer.
This August begins the 25th year for WisconSibs, Inc. As we look forward to celebrating this milestone, it’s only natural to think about how we started, how far we’ve come, and how we are planning for the future.
Our work started when a handful of volunteers across the Fox Valley connected around a critical, yet overlooked need: providing support to children who were siblings of kids with disabilities. One of those volunteers was Harriet Redman. She and others began offering Sibshops® —workshops for children ages 6-12 designed by Don Meyer of the Sibling Support Project.
Under Harriet’s leadership, the Fox Valley Sibling Support Network was chartered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit on July 28, 1998. As we know today, it was the first of its kind in the United States. In 2014 we renamed the organization WisconSibs, Inc to reflect our broader statewide impact. We’ve now grown into a nationally recognized model for supporting siblings of people with disabilities throughout their life-long Sib journey.
A leadership change
As the Board of Directors started its strategic planning in 2020 to develop the next stage of WisconSibs, Inc., Harriet announced that it was time to find the next leader for the organization.
She plans to retire as Executive Director in August, but will continue in an emeritus role to help orient a new director and to cheer on WisconSibs as a loyal supporter to help it reach its full potential.
“I really think of this transition as a celebration of all that has been done, and of all that will come next. The organization has never been stronger and is ready for someone to take it to the next level. I’m looking forward to being helpful in whatever way I can,” says Harriet.