Throughout the United States, there are programs and support groups that address the issues, concerns and emotional support of school-age brothers and sisters of people with disabilities. In fact, The Ohio State University Nisonger Center in Columbus, Ohio has offered such support groups for almost 30 years and under the guidance of Tom Fish, Ph.D., Director of Family and Employment Services, these groups have helped hundreds of young siblings share their concerns, gain information, and connect with others experiencing similar life circumstances.
However, as siblings become adolescents and adults, their concerns and family circumstances change. Clearly the issues concerning the 8 year-old brother are not the same as the 48 year-old brother. New issues such as the long-term care of their sibling, their sibling’s eligibility for programs, and support services are more prominent in the minds of adolescent and adult siblings. However, all too often, these siblings are left out of the loop as parents continually shield siblings from important information related to their sibling with a disability.
Recognizing that adult siblings could greatly impact not only their sibling’s quality of life, but the entire family’s life as well, Dr. Fish and a small group of volunteers set out to establish Ohio SIBS and build an organization dedicated to serving the needs of adult siblings of people with developmental disabilities. Ohio SIBS was one of the first organizations of its kind in the country to singularly focus on the needs of adult siblings and has served as a model for other state adult sibling programs across the country and around the globe.