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Supporting Sibs Through Sibshops By Mathilde Steenepoorte

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Mathilde and her brother HendrickHinted 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 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!

SibNews – Jan – March 2022

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SibNews Now Available

SibNews for Jan-March 2022January-March 2022 – Volume 20, Issue 1 contains:

  • Summer Camps Full of Outdoor Adventure
  • NEW!  Book Club for Adult Siblings – WisconSibs READ
  • A World of PosSIBility for You!
  • Annual Sibs Are My Peeps Contest Announced
  • PLUS – Calendar of events and opportunities…and MORE!



SibNews – Dec 2020-Feb 2021

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SIBNEWS COVER - DEC 2020Click to download your newest issue of SibNews


  • Young siblings use grateful to build resilience
  • Grandmother tells how she sees her sibling grandchildren
  • Allergy-friendly soup recipe
  • CALENDAR of 2021 events, including Sib Camps
  • Sibling Voices: Stories of Hope
  • More!

Special SAFER AT HOME SibNews for you

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This special issue of SibNews features WisconSibs locked down during “safer at home” orders. DOWNLOAD NOW


  • Hear Courtney, a teacher and a mother of 3 siblings, tell how her family has changed during the lock down.


  • Be inspired by Stephenie Mlodzik’s siblings revealing rainbows in the clouds.




  • High school and college WisconSibs tell it like it is in “What Siblings Would Like Parents to Know During This Pandemic”
  • Fresh Chive Soup recipe
  • MORE

Want a full-color, printed copy sent to you or a friend? Contact us


SibNews is here!

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This issue is filled with stories and information about:

  • Sibling’s Choice Awards – Siblings tell what caregivers for their sisters and brothers mean to them.
  • Upcoming Sibshop and Sib Camp dates and information
  • Why your sister may be the best thing to happen to you
  • Recipe for a quick, tasting dessert
  • Calendar of events for Dec 2019-January 2020 and beyond

To view or print, click Dec 2019-Jan 2020 SibNews


Feb-April 2019 SibNews: News for and about siblings of people with disabilities

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Feb-April 2019 issue of SibNews is packed with information about:

  • Relieving Cabin Fever with Summer Camps
  • Q & A – Adult siblings need information about guardianship
  • Famous sibling – Of course, the songwriter of Let It Go is a sib!
  • Donors honor loved ones with gifts to WisconSibs
  • Calendar for WisconSibs
  • More

Click to view or download




SibNews FEB-APRIL 2019 calendar

Oct-Dec 2018 SibNews: News for and about siblings of people with disabilities

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This issue features articles:

DISTANCE MAKES THE HEART GROW – How a long-distance caregiver keeps stays close to her sisters

HOLIDAY STRESS – How siblings compare to the general population and tips for dealing with the frenzy.

YOU MIGHT BE A CAREGIVER IF… What would you add?

WHERE-THE-SUN-DON’T-SHINE Green Tomato Soup recipe

Calendar for October, November, December

Peep Peep!

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They may just look like sticky, sweet, marshmallowy-treats, but those cute bunnies and chicks made magic happen in the creative hands of those who entered our Sibs Are My Peeps contest this past month.

Some used the opportunity for team-building in their agency or family. Some tell a story. Still others used the opportunity to tell about their passion or an upcoming event.

Thank you to the Willems Student Marketing Team for collaborating with WisconSibs to make this project so much fun and bring out the voices of WisconSibs and their fans. The team of Appleton High School students applied their knowledge and youthful thinking to help us carry out this project.  Well done, team!

We are very proud to announce the semi-finalists for 2018.  These winning entries will advance to the finals at the free Fox Cities Kidz Expo on April 14th at the new Fox Cities Exhibition Center.  Come visit our booth, sponsored by We Energies, and vote for your favorite to be the WisconSibs Peepl’s Choice!


Peeplelympics by CP Fox Cities



What’s Your Superpower? by WI Board for People with Disabilities


To Market To Market by Djuanna and Drake


Little Bob Peeps Roller Rink by Ainsley


Peep-tastic Playground by Elise


Peep Camp by Jack, Maxwell, and Gabriel

April 14 2018
9 am – 3 pm
Fox Cities Exhibition Center
FREE! Bring the kids!

Caring For a Sibling with Mental Illness

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You’ve heard me say it over and over…siblings have the longest and one of the most significant bonds in the life of a person with disabilities. That’s why staff, volunteers, and participants with WisconSibs have such passion to support siblings from childhood through adulthood and why we CELEBRATE the unique role of siblings, especially sisters (by the way Celebrate Sisterhood will be October 30, 2018).

That passion inspires us to not only recognize the millions of siblings of people with developmental disabilities, but also people with emotional and mental health concerns.   An estimated 8.4 million Americans are caregivers to adult loved ones with a mental illness, most often a son or daughter, parent, spouse or sibling.

Sisters bond - mental health

Jean Moore (left) shares a laugh with her sister, Ruby Wilson, in front of the assisted living facility where Wilson lives on Oct. 12, 2017, in Clinton, N.C. (Andrew Craft for Kaiser Health News)

Recently, the Kaiser Health News published a wonderful story about two sisters, Jean and Ruby and their bond as sisters, one with paranoid schizophrenia.

The girls grew up very close, almost like twins. “They used to say our name as JeannieandRuby. It was like one person.”  But as they became teenagers, Rudy’s mental health changed and their lives began to diverge. As they became adults, Jean became a caregiver and an even closer sister.  READ STORY

WisconSibs offers Sibshops to children ages 8-14 who are growing up with brothers or sisters with emotional or mental health concerns.  Each session is held in a relaxed setting with games, snacks, and discussion about the concerns and the joys of growing up with their sibling.  Held at the Catalpa Day Treatment Center in Appleton, siblings can join in any time during the series from January through May, 2018.  For more information.

Download Catalpa Series Sibshop flyer Jan-May 2018

“Caregiving situations for siblings pack an extra emotional punch for the caregiver,” said John Schall, who runs the Caregiver Action Network, a nonprofit organization that supports people providing care to loved ones. “It’s not unusual for us to think at some point of being the caregiver for our elderly parents, but it’s a whole different thing to be a caregiver for a sibling who we always thought of as equals.”

JOIN US for a Community Dialogue on Family Caregivers – Monday, January 29, 2018 at the WisconSibs office, 211 E Franklin St., Appleton, WI – MORE INFORMATION