Program Assists Brothers and Sisters of Kids with Autism

March 3, 2008

Home to one of the largest intensive intervention and diagnostic centers for autism, Nationwide Childrens Hospital has long been recognized as a leader in autism intervention efforts.  Now the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Nationwide Childrens Hospital is also setting the standard for the care of brothers and sisters of children with autism.

Its estimated that as many as one out of 150 individuals in the United States have an autism spectrum disorder, a complex developmental disability that affects a persons ability to communicate and interact with others.  While much time and attention is focused on the child with autism, brothers and sisters of autistic children may have feelings that are difficult to express: sadness that an autistic sibling cant learn things that others take for granted, anger and frustration over recurring behavioral problems or pride when a sibling with autism learns a basic but important life skill.

As a result, in 2007 Nationwide Childrens began offering a program called Sibshops, designed to teach coping skills and provide support for siblings of children who are physically ill or have special needs.  Unlike most Sibshops programs, Nationwide Childrens has tailored its program specifically for brothers and sisters of autism patients.

The strains autism places on families are very real and can be extremely difficult, said Jacquie Wynn, PhD, director of the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Nationwide Childrens and a member of the faculty at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.  By helping siblings cope with the effects of autism, we help heal and strengthen the entire family.

Nationwide Childrens program is modeled from Sibshops curriculum provided by The Sibling Support Project, the national effort dedicated to the lifelong concerns of brothers and sisters of people who have special health, developmental or mental health concerns.  It uses games and activities to help kids explore feelings and share emotions and experiences.  Participants also learn how to handle difficult or stressful situations, and they learn more about autism and their siblings special needs.

Nationwide Childrens Sibshops for Autism program is one of only a handful of such programs in the country and is one of several autism education efforts at Nationwide Childrens.  Interactive parenting classes are also available to help caregivers manage the challenges of parenting a child with autism. Also, Nationwide Childrens Autism Academy provides general autism information, including intervention and medication options, funding sources, advocacy efforts and resources available within the community.

About Nationwide Children's Hospital

Named to the Top 10 Honor Roll on U.S. News & World Report’s 2017-18 list of “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of America’s largest not-for-profit freestanding pediatric healthcare systems providing wellness, preventive, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative care for infants, children and adolescents, as well as adult patients with congenital disease. Nationwide Children’s has a staff of nearly 13,000 providing state-of-the-art pediatric care during more than 1.4 million patient visits annually. As home to the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Nationwide Children’s physicians train the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric specialists. The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of the Top 10 National Institutes of Health-funded freestanding pediatric research facilities. More information is available at NationwideChildrens.org.