By Amy Halm
I am a trainee through the family discipline of the Illinois Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities program and the sister of a great lady with Down syndrome. Recently, I had opportunity to attend The Arc of Illinois Executive Forum Leadership Conference.
I was looking forward to the entire conference and the presentation I was most excited about was “Supporting Siblings: Advancing Involvement and Leadership” by Katie Arnold, the Executive Director of the Sibling Leadership Network. Katie gave a fantastic presentation, sharing her personal experience, her professional perspective, and her research about siblings of people with disabilities. The audience included many directors of social service agencies so Katie was perfectly positioned to share her perspective with professionals that can be counted on to collaborate with siblings in the future.
Among the wonderful photographs and graphs that Katie included in her presentation, there was one image that stood out to me more than all the rest: a picture of an enormous club sandwich. This image was used to illustrate the “sandwich generation,” a generation of people who are caring for both their own children and their aging parents. Katie built on this by explaining that the “club sandwich generation” illustrates that adult siblings often have another layer, when they take on the role of caring for their sibling with a disability as well. There may be times when an adult sibling will be simultaneously expected to be at a school function for their child, a doctor’s appointment for their parent, and provide transportation for their sibling to attend an event (to say nothing of going to work, maintaining relationships, and walking the dog).
It’s important to note that Katie didn’t present this image as a complaint. Club sandwiches are delicious! But sometimes, you need friends to help with a sandwich that large! One of the ways that siblings can find this kind of support is through sibling groups. The Sibling Leadership Network (SLN) and our state sibling chapters are key organizations that can provide resources, encouragement and assistance to siblings.