Our story starts a few years ago...
The three of us met in 2011 at a summer camp for Jewish high school students who were interested in social justice. Through this program, we spent time working with adults and children with disabilities and learning about the systems that structure how we treat these individuals. The program made sure that we spent a significant amount of time reflecting on how our own backgrounds influenced our service experiences and through these reflections, we made an amazing discovery. Both Ellie and Claire had older siblings who were on the autism spectrum. Though they had diverse experiences growing up, it was clear that their siblings had had an immense impact on their development.
Throughout the next few years, we kept in touch through Facebook, winter break excursions, and long phone calls. Sophomore year of college, Claire received an amazing opportunity in the form of the Martin Dale Summer Award. This scholarship provides funding for sophomores to spend the summer having a transformative experience whether that be in order to further explore a personal interest or complete a service project or anything in between. After attending the info session, Claire felt that it could be an amazing idea to drive around the country in order to interview a variety of “sibs,” or siblings of individuals with developmental disabilities. She immediately enlisted the rest of the trio and after securing the grant, the true journey began.
We spent the summer of 2013 driving 10,000 miles around the country and were able to interview over 80 siblings between the ages of 4 and 84. We interviewed sibs in Houston, New Orleans, Montgomery, Atlanta, Chapel Hill, DC, New York, Boston, Oneonta, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and lots of places in between. Throughout our trip, we shared the stories and experiences of sibs along our route.
Following our road trip, we reflected on what sibs had told us throughout our journey about their needs. We found that those in our own age group were most likely to be in search of guidance of how to start thinking about their sibling’s future and what role they might want to play in that future. In addition to practical advice, sibs were also interested in getting to know other people who were in their same situation. Building on these insights, we decided to plan a conference for young adult siblings, ages 18-30. To learn more about our Summer 2014 conference, click here.
In fall 2014, we made the exciting decision to partner with the Sibling Leadership Network, a national non-profit supporting sibs across the lifespan. As a board member, Sib’s Journey will focus on developing and enhancing the SLN’s young-adult programming.