This fall, JMFamily Advocacy piloted the Sibling Workshop with Board member Maureen Faust as a primary facilitator. Read as she details this new initiative. Maureen will also be a speaker at our annual Butterfly Tea on Saturday, April 29th.

Serving children of all abilities. This is more than a slogan at the Joseph Maley Foundation (JMF). This mission is truly the center of this amazing organization. As JMF has discovered over its years, serving children of all abilities is more than just the children we serve, it is their community, their friends, their families-parents and siblings.

This year JMF set out to serve specifically siblings and hosted its first Sibling Workshop. The workshop was organized to bring together children aged 11-18 who’s sibling have special needs to give them an outlet to share, learn from each other, and create friendships. Key components were young adult mentors who also have siblings of special needs served as group mentors/advisors (Ali, Molly, Sean, and Maureen). Megan, a clinical psychologist by training and mother to 3 children spearheaded the layout of the workshops. Workshops were held every other week for 6 sessions in the fall of 2016. JMF hosted 16 children during this first workshop series.

The workshops started off slowly: children/adolescents were quiet but respectful of each other as they began to meet one another. By the end of the sessions, the workshop participants greeted each other with excitement. Chatter and laughter were common in the JMF Enrichment Center throughout their time together. Bonds formed among the participants as well as between mentors. Discussions occurred on a matter of subjects including respect, responsibility, embarrassment, anger/irritation, and the family dynamic. Participants showed impressive insight into their siblings as well as how to live in a world where challenges come in all shapes and sizes. Also celebrated were the participants individually. We celebrated their creativity, talents, and aspirations. It was a remarkable experience to learn from these resilient members of our community.

Because the workshops were so successful, we are looking forward to launching the second set of workshops this year with a more refined and improved format. Please stay tuned on the JMFamily Advocacy program page for when this next set will launch!

Post written by: Maureen Faust, JMF Board member