My Experience at the Ohio SIBS Conference

Friday, November 2, 2012

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Ohio SIBS Conference in Columbus.  I got so much out of it that I wanted to share.

Ohio SIBS (Special Initiatives by Brothers and Sisters) of people with developmental and other disabilities is one of the few statewide groups in the country.  The Mission is to ‘provide advocacy, education, leadership and supports that will promote enhanced quality of life, improved public policy, and increased services and support for adult siblings.’  For more information, check out www.ohiosibs.com.

Ohio SIBS is chaired by Barbara Sapharas, a long-time employee of the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities.  Over the past several years, Barb has shared with the Planting the Seeds Workshop* participants both her professional expertise and some of her personal experiences as ‘Sis.’

Barb said we would all feel comfortable at the conference because everyone in the room knows where you’re coming from.  She was right, and it felt great.

  • All the presenters impressed me, but here are a few highlights:Author and Vanderbilt University professor Ann Kaiser, Ph.D., told about her middle aged brother who shares an apartment with a man in his 20s and a ‘house mother.’  Ann shared that her brother has really blossomed since moving out of his mother’s home and allowed to become his own person.  Ann’s mom had said, ‘I only thought we were taking care of him,’ but everyone now recognizes that ‘friendship is one of the things families can’t give.’
  • Professors Sarah Hall from Ashland University and Tom Fish from the Nysonger Center at Ohio State University talked about the Transition Weekend Retreat they helped organize called ‘Sibs Looking Forward’ for those transitioning out of the school system and their adult siblings.  Brothers and sisters went to ‘camp’ to learn about themselves, to explore questions like ‘where do I want to live?’ and ‘what role does the sibling want to have?’ and to better connect with each other.  Participants learned problem-solving skills, shared visions, and (most of all) had fun and ate s’mores.
  • Comedian Rob Snow talked about how ‘We Need A Sign’ to quickly and without words communicate to others that we know what it’s about.  He talked about the offensiveness inherent in using the “R” word, and he suggested that “DD” should really stand for ‘Developmentally Distinct’.  My words don’t begin to suggest how much warm-hearted laughter Rob evoked from everyone in the room.

And, as much as anything else, we siblings were able to share with each other, and to know we are not alone.

One of the ‘takeaways’ is that Ohio SIBS will be organizing regional meetings in 2013.  If you’re interested, feel free to contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

*Planting the Seeds is a three-evening Workshop sponsored by the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities (CCBDD) and given by John and Carol Culley for parents on how to do planning for the future. These Workshops will be offered twice in 2013: April 24, May 1 and May 8 at the CCBDD Southwest Adult Activities Center and October 9, 16, and 30 at the CCBDD Euclid Adult Activities Center.  Click here for details.

- Posted by Carol Culley

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