Prior to COVID-19, medical social worker Emily La Framboise and her team held monthly in-person workshops for siblings of patients with a disability. The pandemic made the popular groups, called Sibshops, an uncertainty.
Held at Beaumont’s Center for Exceptional Families (CEF), the events allowed children to meet with others in similar circumstances and talk about the good and not-so-good parts of having a sibling with special needs. The kids would play games, talk, laugh and learn about the services their brothers and sisters receive at CEF, school and home.
“It’s not therapy, but it is very therapeutic for them,” explained Emily. “It’s a chance for siblings of kids with disabilities to be celebrated, recognized and to spend time with other kids going through the same thing, so they know they aren’t alone.”
The outpouring of support on behalf of parents and participants, ages 8 to 12 years old, was incredible, and before she knew it, the group was meeting virtually weekly.
“It became a passion of mine to maintain this connection virtually for them,” said Emily, who wasn’t entirely familiar with Zoom before the pandemic started. “Thinking outside the box to convert in-person high energy activities to a format that engages kids virtually required flexibility and creativity.”
The kids learn from each other how to navigate tricky situations and Emily helps facilitate the group through support, interactive games and educational means.
“Adapting to change comes with the territory of being a social worker, so perhaps that is why we were well-equipped to modify what we do to still support our families throughout the pandemic,” she said. “It was initially a challenge, but honestly an honor to continue to impact these lives in a meaningful way.”