News and Notes from The Johnson Center

SibCamp: New friends, knowledge, and fun

JCCHD | Thu, July 26, 2012 | [Community][Events][Sibling Spotlight]

The Coping Tree
Participants created a “coping tree” where each leaf represents a helpful coping activity

“This is my kind of camp” was just one of the comments we were delighted to hear as our SibCamp took place last week.  SibCamp is a one-of-a-kind camp we created for siblings who have brothers or sisters with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It provided a chance for kids to connect with others “who get it.” Not only were valuable connections made, but the camp was jam-packed with fun, helpful activities.

SibCamp was developed and run by our Psychologist, Claire Schutte, and our Certified Child Life Specialist, Jeanna Martinez.  The curriculum included lessons and activities from Sibshops, a program designed specifically for siblings of children with special needs, as well as programming devised by The Johnson Center.  Each day was filled with different activities that created points of discussion, including siblings’ understanding of autism, peer issues, family issues, effective communication, emotion expression, and coping skills.  Leaders emphasized these topics, successfully incorporating them into fun activities. Participants learned how therapeutic play and recreation can be.

The kids learned how to express their emotions in fun and healthy ways, even when they were feeling angry or frustrated. During one activity the kids made Gak goo and then threw it at a target.  The kids learned how to turn frustration into fun, and anger into laughter. Other activities included “washing away feelings”; the kids used chalk to write down as many “feeling” words they could think of. They came up with some good ones including “sad,” “ignored,” and “happy.” The kids then took turns talking about specific times they had experienced these feelings. When they were done they were given a pitcher of water and asked to wash away the emotions that made them feel bad. The kids said this was a “cool” way to visually erase those negative feelings, keep the positive ones, and think about ways to handle situations.

Other activities included making friendship bracelets and custom journals, as well as some creative twists on games such as bingo and Jenga. The boys and girls also participated in Aunt Blabby, an advice column in which they were able to answer questions from other siblings of children with autism. The kids came up with excellent responses, while integrating things they had learned throughout the week.

One of the highlights of SibCamp was the music workshop offered by the Be An Artist program and taught by singer-songwriter Darden Smith. Participants learned how easy it is to express themselves through music and other creative art forms.  As a team, they wrote, sang, and recorded four songs that allowed humor, imagination, and individual experiences to shine through. These soon-to-be hits included My Left Leg and Brando the Chihuahua. 

As SibCamp came to an end, the kids all commented on how fun the camp had been and even expressed a desire to do it again! We were impressed with how much they learned and were happy to be able to provide siblings with a week designed just for them. Participants graduated from SibCamp with a better understanding of their siblings, a “tool box” of new coping skills, and best of all, valuable new relationships with kids who understand what it is like to grow up with a sibling with ASD.

We are excited to offer our ongoing sibling program called “Sib Connections.” Sib Connections is just like SibCamp, but it will meet once per week for several weeks. The next session will start this fall. If you are interested in having your child participate in the next Sib Connections, click here or call our office for details.