The Orthodox Union’s Yachad organization for individuals with disabilities in the Orthodox Jewish community has launched a support network for siblings of individuals with special needs.

The group held its first session and has set monthly meeting dates through May. Participants in the first session ranged in age from 21 through 60, and joined from seven cities in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio and Canada.

Individuals with special needs and their families are uniquely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

At its start, many daytime and residential programs for individuals with special needs either locked down or closed entirely. This resulted in their residents or participants returning to their parents’ homes for extended periods of time, with service interruptions from special-education instructors, behavioralists, social workers and a wide array of therapists.

Their families and sometimes aging parents once again became responsible for full-time coverage, which has caused increased stress for family and siblings living inside and outside the home.

“The pandemic’s restructuring of the day-to-day care for individuals with special needs has compounded the stress and experience for many of their siblings,” said Yachad associate director Chani Herrmann. “The goal of our program is to make sure that siblings of those with special needs don’t feel alone, and are able to discuss their feelings and challenges with others who understand their unique position.”

The group will meet next on Dec. 2. It will reconvene in late December and then once per month through May 2021. Yachad director of clinical services Amanda Levy, LCSW, will help to facilitate the forum. 

For more information or to register, see: www.yachad.org/sibsupport.

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