Sibling group leaders

Whether you are setting up a sibling group for the first time or have been running groups for many years, this section will give you guidelines and activities to help you run your group

Agony aunt letters

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Purpose

An excellent discussion starter to look at the issues faced by siblings and discuss different ways of handling them

You will need

Relevant letters to a fictitious agony aunt at your local newspaper, preferably each in an envelope (unsealed if you want to reuse it!)

As the group progresses you may want to write your own so as to ensure relevant topics are raised.

Sibshops originally developed this activity for siblings and it was called Aunt Blabby. Lots of group leaders in the UK have adapted this activity in their own way and therefore we give examples for letters here. However for a whole host of sample letters see Sibshops:Workshops for siblings of children with special needs.

How to do it

Explain that siblings have been writing in to the agony aunt at your local newspaper, but that she needs help in knowing how to answer the letters. Get one sibling to choose a letter and read it out. That person has first go at answering it, then others join in with their advice/opinions.

Variations

Discuss different letters in small groups, then feed back to the big group.

Use it as a weekly feature in the big group (perhaps just as the food time is coming to an end). Limit this to two letters each week.

If you are using this for several sessions, you can give the siblings a blank letter to take home and write their own – even if they don't actually do it, they may say next time what they would have written (especially popular with the younger children).

Write your own targeted letters.

Sample letters

Dear Agony Aunt
My sister is 7 years old and has epilepsy. It is my birthday soon and I am worried in case she has a fit in front of my friends. It frightens me sometimes when she has fits and I don't want her to scare away my friends, what shall I do?

Dear Agony Aunt
I am fed up with my mum and dad. I have got a disabled brother and he gets more attention than I do. If my brother does anything wrong they never seem to say very much but if I do anything wrong I always get into trouble. Sometimes I feel really angry.

Dear Agony Aunt
My brother makes me really mad. When I go out to play with my friends he cries and wants me to stay in with him. He is not allowed to play outside because he has no road sense and sometimes I feel guilty to leave him. Do you have any ideas?

Dear Agony Aunt
I have a problem at school with my friend. They sometimes ask me what is wrong with my brother who is disabled. Once my teacher even asked. I never know how to explain it. Can you help?

Autism specific

Dear Agony Aunt
My younger brother Tony has autism and likes flapping his hands and humming. I have a problem at school with my friends, when he comes with my mum to pick me up they ask what is wrong with him and start laughing.What can I tell them?
Jess (aged 8 ½)

Dear Agony Aunt
I am fed up with my mum and dad. My older brother Tom has asperger's and often goes in my room and takes things. They tell me to ignore him but I can't. I hit him and get into trouble and that's not fair cos he started it all. Please help!
Mark (11)

Dear Agony Aunt
My older sister Karen has autism. She makes me so mad cos when I go out with my friends Karen gets excited so my mum asks if she can come too and Karen likes the park but when we have to leave she starts screaming and everyone looks at me. Sometimes I run out of the house before she is ready but then I feel guilty because she has no friends. Should I just leave her?
Tracey (9)

Dear Agony Aunt
My mum is always helping my younger sister Sasha and I'm left out. Mum says it's because Sasha has asperger's and needs more help but I think Sasha is just lazy and needs to try harder. Mum says she is too tired to come shopping with me but still takes Sasha to the park. Why is it so unfair?
Sammy (13)

Dear Agony Aunt
I love going bowling with my family but we hardly ever go. My little brother Carl always ruins it by having an outburst before we set out. Dad says it's because he has autism and hates change. But why does he enjoy it when we do go? Why is autism so confusing?
Kevin (12)

Dear Agony Aunt
My friends don't know I have a sister with autism. Saleema doesn't go to my school and so I never mention her. But mum wants to give me a birthday party and Saleema will be there. Saleema still wears nappies even though she is 7 and she can't talk properly. I usually get on with her but I know my friends will laugh.How can I tell my mum I'm ashamed of Saleema?
Aziz (nearly 11)

Dear Agony Aunt
My little brother William is really cute and loves playing with trains. I help him get ready and look after him when we play out. I thought he would be coming to my school but Dad says he has autism and that's why he goes to get a bus to the special school in the next town. Will William ever get better and come to my school?Liam (9)

Dear Agony Aunt
I think I have autism. I have two younger brothers – Jack has Aspergers and Tim has autism. I like watching videos again and again and I know that people with autism have obsessions. Mum tells me I haven't got it but how does she know I have not caught it? I'm worried.
James (13)

Dear Agony Aunt
I am really fed up at school. When my older brother Chris has a kick off, everyone comes to get me to calm him down, even though he's in the year above me. At playtime and dinner time I have to stay with him because he has no friends. I wish he would just go to another school but mum wants him to go to a normal school. Help!Frankie (10)

Dear Agony Aunt
My older brother Jordan will only eat brown food. That is very weird! Why won't  he eat any other colours??? We never go in cafes now because he has a tantrum if there's nothing he likes.What do you think?
Claire (14)

Dear Agony Aunt
My little sister Demi looks normal but she's not! If she doesn't get what she wants she starts screaming and kicking. This is not good because when we're in a shop my mum just gives in. When I've done it I get told off, Demi doesn't! At home we always have to watch what she wants. Will things get better?
Harry