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The Sibling Slam Book What It's Really Like to Have a Brother or Sister with Special Needs Edited by Donald J. Meyer

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Price: $15.95

Give teenagers a chance to say what's on their minds, and you might be surprised by what you hear. That's exactly what Don Meyer, creator of Sibshops and author of Views from Our Shoes did when he invited together a group of 80 teenagers, from all over the United States and abroad, to talk about what it's like to have a brother or sister with special needs. Their unedited words are found in The Sibling Slam Book, a brutally honest, non-PC look at the lives, experiences, and opinions of siblings without disabilities.

Formatted like the slam books passed around in many junior high and high schools, this one poses a series of 50 personal questions along the lines of:

  • "What should we know about you?"
  • "What do you tell your friends about your sib's disability?"
  • "What's the weirdest question you have ever been asked about your sib?"
  • "If you could change one thing about your sib (or your sib's disability) what would it be?"
  • "What annoys you most about how people treat your sib?"
The Sibling Slam Bookdoesn't "slam" in the traditional sense of the word. The tone and point-of-view of the answers are all over the map. Some answers are assuredly positive, a few are strikingly negative, but most reflect the complex and conflicted mix of emotions that come with the territory. Whether they read it cover to cover or sample it at random, teenagers will surely find common ground among these pages and reassurance that they are not alone. It is a book that parents, friends, and counselors can feel confident recommending to any teenager with a brother or sister with a disability.
 "This book offers amazing insights for parents and educators ministering to siblings of children with disabilities."

-Children's Ministry, March/April 2007

"Although the pages are jam-packed with blunt, unedited comments laid out in fun circles and swirls that scream 'teenager' all over them, Meyer addresses the book's mature theme without sugarcoating the emotionality and challenges that are inherent in having an exceptional sibling."
-Exceptional Family, Vol. 2, No. 3, Spring 2007

"Welcome to the real world of siblinghood, described in all of its color, detail, and amazing emotional range by the experts--the sibs. These young writers stake out their territory and claim it with big honesty, a smashing sense of humor, and quiet but unstoppable courage. If you have preconceptions about people with disabilities or their siblings, leave them at the door, and get ready for a great read."
--Paul and Judy Karasik, authors of THE RIDE TOGETHER: A BROTHER AND SISTER'S MEMOIR OF AUTISM IN THE FAMILY

"At turns funny, smart, opinionated and thoughtful, the teens' observations weave together a realistic portrait of the complexities of sibling relationships."
-NDSS Newsletter, Summer 2005

"A slogan for a family support organization states, 'if your child has special needs, then you do, too.' Usually we think first of the parents' needs. But what about siblings? What benefits and frustrations do they perceive about their siblings, their own roles, and how their lives have changed because of the needs of their brothers and sisters?

Editor Donald J. Meyer, host of SibKids, a listserv for brothers and sisters of kids with various special needs, remembered the slam books of his junior high days--spiral notebooks with a question at the top of each page. As the notebooks were secretly passed around the classroom, writers responded to questions posted at the top of each page. At the front of the book was a list of contributors.

Meyer discovered that slam books are still around. He also noticed that siblings posted all kinds of questions to the listserv, not only about special needs issues, but ordinary life experiences--movies, books, TV, school, the opposite sex. He asked some of the listserv contributors to pare the almost 200 questions to the 54 presented in this wonderful paperback.

The Sibling Slam Book looks like a slam book, with its composition-book cover and pages with ruled lines.

More than 70 teenagers contributed and they are listed, with photos, at the front of the book. The pages immediately following contain descriptions of their special needs siblings.

Then the fun begins--a question posted every two pages, with lots of witty, insightful, even courageous responses. The reader is not left out, as there are spaces designated for them to fill in their own thoughts.

I found the book authentic and fun. But since I'm not a member of the target audience, I asked an expert, Treavor Cudd, age 14 and brother of a 2-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, to write a review. Here's what Treavor had to say:

'In reading The Sibling Slam Book, I would rate it just like a novel or movie, with five stars being the highest rating and none being the lowest. While I was reading this book, some topics that really grabbed my attention were:

  • How would you describe your relationship with your sibling?
  • Do you like hanging out with your sibling?
  • What do you do with your sibling?
  • What do you want people to know about your sibling?
  • What do you tell friends about your sibling's disability?
  • Can you imagine what it would be like if your sibling didn't have a disability?
  • If you could change one thing about your sibling, what would it be?
Overall I award The Sibling Slam Bookthe highest rating--a perfect five stars for the facts, deep details, heart, character and the time and effort it took to put this amazing book together.'

Treavor and I highly recommend this book for any teen sibling of a child with special needs, or for your clinic waiting room or reference library. Expect it to become dog-eared quickly! Thanks to the editor and publisher for reaching families of children with special needs through a real and inspiring offering.

Siblings can go to the sibling support project of The Arc of the united states visit http://www.thearc.org/siblingsupport or google sibling support project."
--Laura Knight
ADVANCE for Physical Therapists & PT Assistants, September 12, 2005

"My seven-year-old kept pulling this book off of my desk, the kitchen counter, the nightstand whenever she found it, she'd pick it up and read a page or two. While she's a few years younger than the writers, I figure it's a good sign that other siblings will enjoy it, too. As a parent, I found it very worthwhile to read the thoughts and feelings of 80 teen sibling from around the United States (with a few from Australia, New Zealand and Canada included, too).

The teens' responses to 54 questions about themselves, their siblings, their families, their relationships and more made me laugh out loud, cry and think. I found myself wanting to ask my daughter these same questions to see what she had to say about, 'Do your parents include you in discussions about your sib?'"
--NDSC Down Syndrome News, Volume 28, Number 4

"*This multifaceted vehicle for eliciting some unique and many universal emotions is designed specifically for siblings of special-needs children. An adolescent mainstay, the slam book is the chosen venue for encouraging the venting of opinions, hopes, fears, frustrations, and triumphs. Comments by 81 young people display the recurring theme of optimism, complicated by hard work, dedication, resentment, and fierce protection, all as by-products of love. Some questions serve as icebreakers, such as 'What should we know about you?' and 'What should we know about your sib?' while thought-provoking chapters include 'What life lesson have you learned from being a sib?' and 'What are some advantages--good parts--of having a sibling with a disability?' Typical slam-book questions such as 'Has your sib ever embarrassed you?' are interspersed with chapters like 'Ever feel invisible?' Answers from the large sample group supply ample material so that each reader is sure to relate to some of the thoughtful or heartfelt responses. Highly recommended for all middle, high school, and public libraries."
-School Library Journal, *starred review, June 1, 2005

"If you know a teen who has a sibling with a disability, The Sibling Slam Book would be an excellent choice for a Christmas gift or any occasion."
-Breakthrough, Fall 2005

"This is a book absolutely bursting with truth. Three cheers for the strong young people who share their feelings in these pages -- and for Don Meyer, a great champion of brothers and sisters everywhere. If only I'd known you all when I was younger!"
--Rachel Simon, sister of a woman with developmental disabilities, and author of RIDING THE BUS WITH MY SISTER

"Sibling relationships, especially during the teenage years, can often be emotionally charged, but what happens when one sibling is a brother or sister with special needs? At times, sibs of special needs individuals feel left out and isolated with no one who understands their situation...until Don Meyer came along, that is. In The Sibling Slam Book: What It's Really Like to Have a Brother or Sister with Special Needs, Meyer, Director of the Sibling Support Project of the ARC, presents the thoughts of eighty such teens as they answer over fifty questions about life with a special needs sibling. The slam book format allows for realistic, honest, and age-appropriate answers. This is one of the best and most user-friendly books Disability Resources has come across in the growing field of 'sib books'."
--Disability Resources Online

"THE SIBLING SLAM BOOK asks the kind of questions that sibs like us wonder about. Read it and get an insider's view on the joys, trials, and tribulations felt by sibs everywhere. No single story explains what it's like to have a disability or the effect it has on other kids in the family. Siblings cannot be categorized as you can see from the diverse opinions found in this book! Every sib will find a little of themselves on these pages."
--Christina and David Dudish, college-age siblings who have a sister with autism 

List of Questions

What should we know about you?
What should we know about your sib?
How many kids are in your family?
Describe yourself to someone who can?t see you.
How would you describe your relationship with your sib?
Do you like hanging out with your sib? What do you do?
How do your friends describe you?
What do you want people to know about your sib?
Do you think your sib knows he/she has a disability? (If so, what does that mean to him/her? )
Got any good stories about your sib?
Is your outlook on life different from your friends? Outlook on life? How?
Do you think being a sib has affected your personality? How?
What makes you proud of your sib?
When you were younger, did you ever wish you had a disability so your parents would pay more attention to you?
Do your friends get along with your sib? Do you tend to pick friends who are likely to get along with your sib?
What do you tell your friends about your sib's disability? Do they ever ask questions?
What is your pet peeve?
What item must you have with you all the time?
Can you imagine what it would be like if your sibling didn't have a disability?
Does your sib ever frustrate you? How?
What are some advantages--good parts--of having a sibling with a disability?
What are some disadvantages--not so good parts--of having a sibling with special needs?
Describe a perfect day.
If you could change just one thing about your sib (or your sib-s disability), what would it be?
What do you see for your sibling's future? And what part do you think you'll play in that future?
What annoys you the most about how people treat your sib?
Do your parents include you in discussions about your sib? How do you feel about that?
Has your sib ever embarrassed you?
Do you know lots of other sibs and if so, how do you know them?
How is your sib treated by kids in your community?
What career choices sound good right now?
Something you said you'd never do but did anyway:
What is the hardest thing to do as a sibling?
Sweetest thing someone has done for (or said to) you:
Is there something about your sib that you makes you smile?
Anything about your sib that just pisses you off?
What confuses you the most about the opposite sex?
How do the people at your school/church/after-school group treat your sibling?
What are some words or phrases you use the most?
Has something ever happened to your sib that scared you?
Ever feel invisible?
If you could meet one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
If you had a choice, would you get rid of all disabilities in the world--or just the negative reactions to them?
Most embarrassing moment:
What's the best advice you've given or been given?
Where you see yourself in 10 years:
What life lesson have you learned from being a sib?
Happiest moment:
If you had just one day when your sibling didn't have a disability, what would you choose to do on that day?
What's the toughest thing about being a sib?
What's the weirdest question you've ever been asked about your sib?
If you had one wish for your brother or sister, what would it be?
What's the one question we should have asked but didn't? (and what's the answer?)
Leave us with a good quote--or lyric:

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