FANWOOD, NJ -- As part of its work with families of autistic children, First Children Services is launching a new program dedicated to aiding siblings of children who experience these challenges both at home and in other family settings called Spotlight Sibling. The program which places emphasis on strategies for processing and expressing thoughts, feelings, and experiences will be run out of their Strive Autism Center at 330 South Ave. in Fanwood.

Spearheaded by vice president of clinical services Dr. Jeffery Selman, PsyD, BCBA-D, the program is aimed at helping brothers and sisters of an Autistic child to cope with the challenges faced by their sibling’s daily behavior and interactions within their family. The program will consist of an eight-week plan that features weekly group sessions for children aged 7 to 11. At each session the clinicians who are leading the group will work with the children to learn different coping mechanisms for how their sibling’s behaviors affect them or make them feel.

“All children who have an autistic or special needs sibling all have different experiences and often time have difficulty addressing those issues as they sometimes feel confused or embarrassed,” said Dr. Selman. “Our goal is to help children and their families know they are not alone and can confide in each other to learn together strategies for coping.”

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Selman says he has done a lot of research about children with special needs siblings about how they experience daily life with the challenges that come with their sibling’s disability.

“Kids feel a variety of emotions and competing thoughts related to a challenged sibling. We want to provide an environment to learn and show them that there are others around them who face similar challenges,” Selman said.

The program plans to use evidence-based strategy as a compliment to their Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) that will teach skills that these kids can carry with them beyond the support group to have a more comfortable lifestyle with their sibling at home. “Decreasing problem behavior from autistic children goes hand in hand with the sibling program,” Selman said.

Some skills and strategies that will be employed in these sessions will be related to education and understanding of autism, coping skills for when siblings are feeling frustrated or embarrassed, communication between siblings and throughout the family as well as problem-solving strategies and emotional recognition to help the children identify their own emotions to help them to better cope with how they are feeling. The last session of the program will bring in the entire family and give the siblings an opportunity to work and discuss together, but will not be included in the earlier sessions as to respect the private space that will be utilized by children within the program.

Since the Spotlight Sibling program only meets weekly, there will also be ongoing counseling support available to anyone in the program. The program will run from January 20 through March 17, 2021. The registration deadline is Monday, Jan. 11. For more information about the program or to register your child or family with First Children Services, visit their website or contact Danielle Lawrence at (888) 966-0746, ext. 0 or dlawrence@firstchildrenservices.com.

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