We all know that children with disabilities face many challenges, as do their parents. Less talked about and often ignored are the experiences of siblings of children with special needs. The role can bring with it a confusion of emotions, including frustration, anger, pride, shame, competitiveness, and protectiveness. Siblings may even feel a sense of having been abandoned in favor of someone with seemingly greater needs. A new comic supports special needs siblings by exploring and dealing with these feelings. A New Jersey teenager named Julie Averbach conceived and wrote “Adventures From My World.” The 20-page comic book presents six illustrated stories of children confronting the challenges of having a sibling with special needs.
Siblings Have their Own Set of Challenges
Averbach wrote the stories, while three students at the Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art share the illustration credits. In one story, “Abby” worries how kids at school will react when they learn that a new “weird” kid is her brother. In another, “Max” struggles with tutoring his younger brother on simple math problems while neglecting his own mountain of homework.
Comic Supports Special Needs Siblings
Averbach, is now 17 and a high school senior. She told Special Needs Answers that her goal was “to encourage siblings to express their emotions more openly, and to feel comforted by the fact that they are not alone. I also sought to create more awareness and compassion in my community about the struggles others face. Finally, I wanted to test the efficacy of the comic book medium as a means of therapy and promoting emotional intelligence.”
Student Project Draws Praise
“Adventures From My World” had its start as a public service project for the Girl Scouts. Averbach says her own family’s experience inspired her, as well as her experiences volunteering in the special needs community. “Through this exposure, I realized that, in many families, parents must dedicate so many resources to their children with special needs that the emotional needs of the other siblings are overlooked,” she said.
Averbach created the first story at age 14. At 16, Averbach wrote and sketched the five other stories, then had a local psychologist review them. She also recruited three student artists (Petterson Oliveira, Vanessa Solis, and Dov Smiley) to bring her drawings to life.
“Adventures From My World” earned Averbach a Gold Award from the Girl Scouts (the equivalent of Eagle Scout status in the Boy Scouts). On the strength of the comic the Girl Scouts’ selected her as one of ten National Young Women of Distinction for 2016.
Averbach is the daughter of Academy of Special Needs Planners member Renee Wainberg-Averbach. Wainberg-Averbach is a financial planner for special needs families at Morgan Stanley in Short Hills, New Jersey.
Where to find a copy
The comic book is currently being distributed through support groups, hospitals, universities, disabilities organizations, learning resource centers, and libraries in 19 states and four countries. “I am also hoping that mental health professionals will start to embrace the power of comic books to address other social issues,” Averbach told Special Needs Answers.
For more information about “Adventures From My World” and to order copies, visit www.adventuresfrommyworld.com. All profits from the comic book will support non-profit organizations supporting individuals with special needs.
Revised and published with permission from the American Society of Special Needs Planners.