Sibling Connections Newsletter, Fall 2005

Sibling Connections Newsletter (Fall 2005). Kramer, J. & Heller, T. RRTC on Aging with Developmental Disabilities.
Highlights of the RRTCADD’s first conference for siblings of people with disabilities held on October 29-30, 2004. The conference featured nationally known experts on the lifelong relationships of people with disabilities and their siblings and also provided siblings the chance to hear local experts in the field of disability and the opportunity to network with each other.

Sibling Connections Sequel a Success

Riverwoods, IL
– Brothers and sisters of people with disabilities descended on the Center for Enriched Living for the 2nd annual Sibling Connections Conference on October 22, 2005. The Rehabilitation Re- search and Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities organized the event and welcomed over 50 attendees, including mostly siblings from Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.

Siblings are important because often they assume a variety of key roles in the lives of people with disabilities, yet still go relatively under the radar of most people who specialize in the disability field. Agencies, professionals, and, most of all, and people with disabilities often see the rise in importance of siblings as parents age. However, siblings sometimes do not have the years’ experience of navigating service systems that parents do because they are not frequently considered by providers and professionals.
The roles of siblings vary widely. Their siblings with disabilities, for instance, may live in group homes, with other family members, or with their own families.

This year’s conference attendees were from a wide variety of back- grounds: some were younger siblings who were looking for more information on benefits and planning for the future, others were full guardians of their brother or sister with a disability, while still others were mostly concerned with how to deal with the challenges of navigating agencies and dealing with direct care staff. Together they had a chance to network, get information, and hear some of the latest research trends on siblings and families of people with disabilities.
Sibling Connections is unique to Illinois because it is a conference de- signed to reach out to brothers and sisters by providing them with valuable information. Finding a variety of different topics that are relevant to siblings is crucial given the variety and diversity of sibling experiences.

Sibling Connections also serves as part of the ongoing research at the University of Illinois at Chicago on families and disability. The RRTCADD currently is providing training to siblings who are planning care for their adult relative with a disability. The training will involve siblings with disabilities, parents, and other members of the family.

Brothers and sisters also had many ideas about where to go next after Sibling Connections. Some indicated that siblings need more media exposure, while others were voicing a need for a stronger sibling voice in advocating policy. Another avenue that is currently being explored by the RRTCADD is to create a Sibling Leadership Network that would work in tandem with other existing agencies. Please email comments to John at
[email protected] or contact by phone at 312-996-7988.