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Support Group Helps Siblings of Special Needs Students

Group is designed so children have a safe, comfortable setting where they can express their feelings.

Kerri O’Rourke knows how difficult it can be for the siblings of children with special needs.

“People don’t understand it. Your friends don’t understand it,” O’Rourke said. “You may have the strongest group of friends but you’re best friend won’t understand what you’re going through.”

O’Rourke, the Special Parents Association, and the district have teamed up to help siblings of children with special needs. They have created a new support group for these children. The group is designed so these children can express what they are feeling and experiencing in a comfortable, safe environment. 

“Children who are struggling with this kind of conflict need to know what words to use and how to properly express what they are feeling,” said Mary Rose Scalo, director of the district’s Division of Student Support Services.

The group will hold its first meeting Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. at Giggles and Grow Preschool. The group is designed for children in third through eighth grade.

Jamie LaRusso, a licensed professional counselor and mother of three children, including one with special needs, will facilitate the meetings.

“We can help those children determine what the underlying feelings they are experiencing,” LaRusso said. “Now they finally have a forum where they can express those feelings.”

Scalo said that parents might also find the meetings helpful.

“I think that it also doesn’t only pertain to children. I think that parents, adults, and teachers can all benefit from it,” Scalo said.

LaRusso, a mother of three children, including one with special needs, agreed.

“It’s difficult at times, it’s great at times,” LaRusso said. “Parents can overcompensate with children who don’t have special needs and that can be stressful. You have to wear a lot of hats and you have to be an advocate for your other kids who don’t have special needs. It can be stressful for the siblings of children with special needs to watch their parents struggle sometimes.”

Parents need to sign permission slips and return them to the Office of Student Support Services at the district's headquarters on Nellis Drive. (A permission slip has been attached to this article.)

For more information, contact Scalo at mscalo@wayneschools.com.

— Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Daniel Hubbard at Daniel.Hubbard@patch.com or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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