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
What is communication
This exercise is useful when there are siblings in the group with brothers/sisters with little or no verbal communication. It is also a suggested activity on the autistic spectrum disorder specific siblings programme as many children with ASD use augmentative communication tools (makaton/ picture exchange systems).
Siblings develop their understanding of how their brother or sister communicates and what they can do to help them. It is likely that by improving their communication, the sibling relationship will improve.
It also helps siblings to get on with people in general.
You will need
Cards with simple phrases e.g. 'I have a small brown dog called Buster'. 'I had cornflakes for breakfast', I ride my bike to school', 'I love playing in the park with my friend'
How to do it
- Workers prepare simple phrases or messages on pieces of card
- Each sibling is given a card and asked to find a partner.
- Each sibling then has to communicate the message to their partner but without talking or writing down the message!
- What did siblings do to get across the message – sign/ pull faces/ point to things/ act out the scene. And what was tough – tense/ names/ gender/ specific words?
- What it was like to communicate and be the person guessing– feelings of frustration, annoyance, despair, relief when they got the message?
- And then look at what may have helped – going slowly, taking time, knowledge of sign language, shared signs, objects of reference e.g. bowl, cornflakes, pictures, communication boards/ photos.
- How do siblings communicate with their brother/ sister? How do they know they are happy/ sad/ thirsty/ tired/ hungry/frustrated etc? Write down their ideas and try to draw out that most communication is through body language and that siblings are usually very good at reading body language.
Siblings find that communication is not just about speaking and that they have many skills without even going on a course to learn them!
Follow up activities
- In another session develop the idea of body language further by undertaking an activity about expressing feelings.
- Bring in a communication board or makaton signs and ask siblings to communicate phrases to each other. Get in contact with your speech and language dept or look on the internet for examples of makaton and picture exchange communication systems. Makaton posters can be downloaded from www.makaton.org and check out www.sense.org.uk for a good list of communication systems.
- Bring in magazines and pictures and make collages to explain their lives to the group
- Ask a guest speaker to visit the group to explain communication further e.g. speech and language therapist, paediatrician, teacher from a special school.
- Ask a speech and language therapist to run a training session on makaton/sign language/ using communication boards. These sessions can be great fun and siblings feel that they have learnt a real skill that they can teach to others in their family.