Siblings

The Power of Siblings

One of the Merriam-Webster definitions of siblings is “one of two or more things related by a common tie or characteristic.”

But what if one of those siblings is a child with autism?

The relationship between children with autism and typically developing siblings is a varied, interesting and special one – much like all sibling relationships. And while that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges or issues that might arise –sibling relationships can be one of the most valuable interventions.

Most children naturally develop – learning language and behavior from those around them. Unfortunately, the imitation skills for children with autism are often not there. They need interaction to accomplish these milestones. Having a sibling who already has these skills is one of the biggest and best teaching opportunities.

Playing, talking, mimicking siblings – older or younger – can help children with autism develop language and behavior that will help them in school and in life.
In fact, peer modeling and peer interaction is one way Trellis helps children learn and build the skills they need for success through its school and various therapeutic programs. Children with autism that have typical siblings often can build this into their everyday lives.

Children without autism can sometimes act as parents, as nurturers and as teachers. This unique bond is one of the reasons Trellis invites typically developing siblings into school and programs for “play dates.” It helps foster the relationship and can benefit both children.

There is no doubt that having a child with autism can put extreme demands on a family. And every family and every sibling relationship is different. While there are many scenarios that can play out between children with special needs and their typically developing siblings, we think the first step to ensuring your children can make the most of this special bond is ensuring siblings understand why his/her sibling might act differently. This obviously depends on the age of the child, but chances are most children already sense something is different and love and accept their sibling regardless.

Trellis also encourages including siblings in family meetings and other discussions. Not only does this help ensure no child feels left out, but you might gain some insights from the unique perspective of your children.

There are many aspects of the sibling relationship to explore beyond this. In addition to your Trellis staff, some resources to foster interaction between your children include:
• Pathfinders for Autism Sibshops
• Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital Sibshops

Fall Festival Open House

A successful Fall Festival Open House with over 100 in attendance was just the “housewarming” that Trellis needed for their Sparks location that still feels new to some. Every area of the 30,000 sq. ft. Trellis Learning Center had activities for clients, potential clients and their families on Saturday, November 15, 2014.

The facility, located on York Road, is home to The Trellis School, an afterschool program for Baltimore County, and all of Trellis’ clinic-based programs for children with autism spectrum disorders and other language and communication disorders. The facility includes six classrooms, a new fully equipped sensory gym, an outside playground and thousands of square feet of natural learning environment space.

The excitement from the staff and members of the community was palpable. Suzanne Heid, M.S., Trellis’ Associate Executive Director, commented, “The biggest thing that stood out for me was the sense of pride that our staff felt in showcasing our facility to the community!” The Fall Fest themed Open House, showcased Trellis Services to existing and new clients. When asked about the goal of the event Suzanne stated, “Our goal for the school and the clinic is to highlight our high quality programming with a focus on verbal behavior as part of the core curriculum for students and clients. We are continuously assessing our learners on a daily basis to determine how they acquire skills and progress.”

We are a place families can depend on once their child becomes a part of the Trellis community. This event allowed us to show the community who we are and what we believe in.”

Open House activities were held in each of the classrooms, and all of Trellis’ services were highlighted in some way. There were arts and crafts activities and carnival style games in the open areas, the hallways were flooded with children and all of the gyms were filled to capacity. The enthusiasm and engagement of the day were similar to what an attendee would see during a typical school day. Melissa Horrigan, Occupational Therapist, had this to say about the day,” I am so thankful for the amazing community we have here at Trellis! It was such a privilege to connect with our families outside of therapy. I had so much fun playing with my students alongside their family members. My husband volunteered during the day and he had such a blast meeting our families and seeing the amazing place where I get to work. We had so many families stop by the new OT gym. I was proud to provide a space that our students were excited to show their parents! How many kids can say that they would willingly go to school on a Saturday?” The large gym located in the back of Trellis, offers an abundance of space to run our Autism Waiver Therapeutic Integration After School Program. This program is designed to focus on recreation and leisure skills, while improving the student’s social skills, group participation, and reciprocal play.

“Our Fall Festival Open House was so much fun! It was incredibly rewarding to actually see so many of the families in our community we get to serve, “exclaimed Darcy Kline, Trellis School Autism Intervention Instructor. The event featured an auction with artwork created by current Trellis School students and learners in the Learn 2 Love (L2L) Program with the help of our Social Skills Specialist, Kate Cheek.

This event will be the first of many held in support of Trellis community and the families we serve. For more information about our services click here.