Primary Practice

Support groups for school-age siblings of individuals with disabilities


Sibshops are peer support and educational programs where school-age brothers and sisters meet other young siblings (usually for the first time), have fun, laugh, talk about the good and not-so-good parts of having a sibling with special needs, play some great games, and learn something about the services their brothers and sister receive. The Sibshop model was developed by Don Meyer of the Sibling Support Project and he trains Sibshop facilitators across the country and the world. Sibshops facilitators are often family members of people with disabilities or service providers.

Target Population

Young siblings of individuals with special health care needs. While Sibshops were developed for sibs in the 8-13 year-old age range, Sibshops (depending on the community) are being offered for sibs as young as six and for teens as well


There are over 450 Sibshops in most US states and Canadian provinces and in eight countries. A wide range of agencies sponsor Sibshops: early intervention centers, school districts, children’s hospitals, chapters of The Arc, Easter Seals programs, autism societies, Down syndrome groups, developmental disabilities councils, Jewish community centers, churches, parks and recreation programs, etc. Often, local agencies work with other like-minded agencies to cosponsor one Sibshop for all the brothers and sisters in a given community


The objective of Sibshops are to provide a space for siblings to connect with each other for peer support as well as to learn information about disabilities and navigating social situations related to their brothers and sisters with disabilities

Evidence of Outcomes

Emerging Practice/Model
The program is widely implemented and has fidelity in training of facilitators. Limited research has been conducted on Sibshops. A small pilot study with 16 children and their parents did not find impacts on self-esteem but qualitative interviews indicated satisfaction and benefits of participating in the program (D’Arcy, Flynn, McCarthy, O’Connor, & Tierney, 2005).

A retrospective follow-up survey of 30 Sibshop participants was conducted by the University of Washington (Johnson & Sandall, 2005). Respondents indicated that participation had a positive effect on the feelings they had for their siblings; Sibshops taught coping strategies to over two-thirds of respondents; three-fourths reported that Sibshops affected their adult lives; and 94% said they would recommend Sibshops to others.

Additional Information

Conway, S., & Meyer, D. (2008). Developing support for siblings of young people with disabilities. Support for Learning, 23(3), 113-117.


D’Arcy, F., Flynn, J., McCarthy, Y, O’Connor, C., & Tierney, E. (2005). Sibshops: An evaluation of an interagency model. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, 9(1), 43–57.

Johnson, A. B., & Sandall, S. (2005). Sibshops: A Follow-Up of Participants of a Sibling Support Program. University of Washington, Seattle.