"Riding on the success of his previous books for child and teen siblings of people with disabilities, Don Meyer, the creator of Sibshops workshops for brothers and sisters of exceptional children, now reaches out to adult siblings in Thicker than Water. Presented as a compilation of short essays composed by the siblings themselves, the book’s piecemeal style is reminiscent of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Yet other than its similar format, Thicker than Water is far from a touchy-feely read. As Meyer himself emphasizes in the introduction, 'readers will find that authors' experiences are anything but monolithic...they have a deep, abiding love for their sibs who have disabilities, but it is a devotion that is never easy.'
In fact, as many vignettes attest, sometimes being the sibling of an exceptional person is downright hard. Guilt, shame, regret, resentment, and concern about their siblings' current and future well-being, are feelings that have plagued many writers since childhood; sentiments which seem to intensify for many, as they, their parents and exceptional siblings get on in years. Sadly, for some, the struggles they contended with as children contributed to the dissolution of their parents' marriage and to their own dysfunction as adults.
Yet the bond that many contributors have with their special brothers and sisters is also a common theme throughout. Memories of happy and poignant moments make appearances in the book, as do writers' genuine devotion to their siblings, and dreams to see them lead joyful, fulfilling lives. Perhaps most interesting, is the number of writers who currently work in disability-related fields, consequent to their experiences with an exceptional relative.
While some essays in Thicker than Water are more polished than others, the book as whole is a wonderful tribute to a generation of siblings whose feelings deserve expression and validation. Touching, humorous, and at times painfully raw, it is chock-full of 'been-there-done that' moments that all can relate to."
-Exceptional Family, Summer 2010
"Sibshops and listservs are great ways for brothers and sisters to connect and share their experiences about growing up with a sibling with special needs. However, if you want to explore another avenue of support, or need an additional support medium, then Thicker than Water may be just what the doctor prescribed. Don Meyer, director of the Sibling Support Project, has edited this collection of essays by 39 adult siblings of people with disabilities, illness and other special needs.
Adult siblings share heartwarming, revealing glimpses into their lives that will make you laugh and cry. If you have a brother or sister with special needs, and do not feel supported, you will realize you are not alone in the multitude of often-conflicting emotions brothers and sisters experience, even as adults, when they have a sibling with special needs. And, if you do not have a brother or sister of with special needs, this book will give you new insight into the issues your friends face, and the emotions they experience, while trying to find a balance between responsibilities to their sibling and their own families."
-Newsline, Winter 2010 (Federation for Children with Special Needs)
"Thicker than Water is a collection of 39 essays written by adults who have a sibling who is affected by a physical, cognitive, or mental disability. The intent of the collection is to share with the reader the diverse experiences, thoughts and feelings adults of various ages have towards their siblings with disabilities. It is specifically aimed at other brothers and sisters who, through reading the essays, will meet others with similar experiences.
The editor, Don Meyer, is the director of the sibling support project, a U.S.-based project concerned with the lifelong issues of siblings with special needs. He has gathered authors from various ages and stages in their lives, many of whom are active contributors to or readers of the project's listerv, Sib Net. The essays are all unique in both style and content, reflecting their unique life experiences.
When reading the essays, one is struck by the range of feelings these adults have towards their siblings. In some instances, they describe their lives as being enhanced by their sibling; at other times, they describe how their lives have been negatively affected, indeed traumatized, by the needs of their sibling. The essays provide a clear message that everyone in a family is affected by a son or daughter with a disability; not just the individual him/herself.
As an occupational therapist working with children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders, reading this collection was a reminder of how family systems work and of how important it is to include, where possible, the whole family in treatment. After all, it is often the sibling who will ultimately be the caregiver, emotionally or physically, for an individual with a disability. I would definitely recommend this book as well as the author's website www.siblingsupport.org to learn more about sibling-related issues and resources."
-Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy
"Written in the first person by adult siblings of persons with disabilities, this book identifies the heartfelt and often challenging concerns of siblings through their lives as brothers and sisters of those with special needs. The siblings expressed the fears, concerns, and responsibilities that they face throughout their lives. The book is arranged into vignettes of ordinary and extraordinary people who describe their inner feelings as well as their anger and frustration as they reflect upon their special needs siblings.
Filled with humor and joy and indescribable moments of self reflection, this resource will fill a gap for the often forgotten siblings of those with disabilities. The book truly fills the void for those who have experienced this situation with honesty and openness.
Often overlooked in favor of their siblings with special needs, the adult children reflect on what their lives were like growing up as well as the burden of responsibility that they feel they will have to absorb as the primary caregivers, the parents of these disabled children, who will no longer be able to coordinate the care of their special needs adult. This book is a vital book for special libraries that seek to have a complete collection for parents, family members, educators, and other caregivers of those with disabilities."
-CAPHIS Consumer Connections
"As the mom of two girls--one with DS and one without--I have always wondered about, worried over, and celebrated their relationship as sisters. Having often heard that the sibling relationship usually lasts longer than any other, I sometimes wish I could look into the future to see what their lives will be like as adults. This book might be the next best thing. Thirty-nine adult siblings wrote essays about their experiences growing up with or caring for their now adult brothers and sisters with disabilities.
They write of relationships that are complex and simple, joyful and hard, accepting and resentful, ordinary and extraordinary. Many write of their siblings as gifts that shape their lives. For others, their lives were shaped by less-than-positive family dynamics. The stories are real, their feelings are genuine, and their advice for other families is heartfelt."
-Down Syndrome News, Volume 32, #6 (National Down Syndrome Congress)
"There's more of an effort lately to honor the experiences of siblings of children with special needs, both through programs like Sibshops for children and teens, and books like Thicker Than Water offering adult reflections. Edited by Sibshops creator Don Meyer, this collection of essays provides a spectrum of opinions, from siblings of a variety of ages and circumstances. Some celebrate their sibling bond, others have mixed feelings, and some tell horror stories of neglect and abuse.
These are good voices for parents to hear, and to take into consideration as they deal with the many challenges of parenting children with and without disabilities. If you've ever just assumed that your typical children are absolutely unaffected by your treatment of their special sibling, there's some eye-opening material here. At the same time, I was left wishing, in essay after essay, for the parents' perspective. It's the same feeling I had reading Reflections From a Different Journey which similarly allowed adults--in that case, those with special needs--to comment on their upbringing. It's so easy to second-guess the decisions made by moms and dads, and to feel compassion for adult children who can trace problems to their sources. But parents in these situations are often asked to make impossible decisions, in a hurry, without benefit of adequate information or hindsight. I can't help but feel compassion for them, too.
One thing I did particularly enjoy about these essays, though, is the portraits they provide of people with disabilities in adulthood, living their lives with various degrees of support and grace, and enjoying continuing family relationships on into retirement age. Peeking into the future may be more useful in the end than poking into the past."
--Terri Mauro, About.com's Parenting Children with Special Needs, specialchildren.about.com
"Thicker than Water: Essays by Adult Siblings of People with Disabilities is a collection of essays by 39 different authors who grew up with a brother or sister who has a disability. Don Meyer edited the collection, and quite a number of the essays are about siblings with autism.
One essay was written by Tom Keating, a Ph.D., who specializes in assistive technology. He says his perspective is strongly influenced by his role as primary care provider for a brother with autism. Another author, Ann P. Kaiser, wrote an essay called Transition about her brother, who wasn’t diagnosed with autism until adulthood.
The essays by adult siblings of people with autism were not all sugary-sweet--the authors reveal both positive and negative aspects of growing up with someone who has autism. That’s what I liked best about the essays--they were honest.
Thicker than Water gave me an insider’s view of the decisions so many siblings have to make in regards to their families. All in all, an interesting and eye-opening read."
-Easter Seals and Autism website
"With each essay in Don Meyer's Thicker than Water I experienced a shock of recognition and the comfort of validation. The stories are poignant, amusing and instructive. As a well-sibling, I deeply appreciate this book."
-Heather Summerhayes Cariou, author, Sixtyfive Roses: A Sister's Memoir
"Sometimes I think the most private stories we can tell are the ones about our brothers and sisters and ourselves. As children, we witness one another's most unguarded moments. As adults, we are free to choose whether to love one another or not (or even whether to like one another or not). We are similar and dissimilar: what happens when you look into a mirror and see someone else?
Don Meyer's intimate collection of essays by adult siblings of people with disabilities lets us in deep to the emotional currents and tugs, the choices and consequences, of the sibling experience. The book contains reports from sibs who become surrogate parents; sibs who live apart but share holidays, errands, and adventures; and those who share less, including one anonymous writer who declares that, for her, even simple contact is just 'too high a price to pay.'
If you're interested in families--any families--you'll find rich, revealing treasures in these pages. And if you're a citizen of the Disability Nation, by blood, marriage, or voluntary alliance, welcome home."
-Judy Karasik, co-author, with the graphic novelist Paul Karasik, of The Ride Together: A Brother and Sister's Memoir of Autism in the Family
"Well, here we all are, we siblings: horrified, embarrassed, furious, tickled, warmed, thankful, and slightly nuts. We're nuts from the worry, belly laughs, responsibility, and pure love that washes over us in the most unexpected places. Most of us (what a surprise!) spent a good part of our lives trying to make it right, out there in the world. This is fascinating reading. Don't miss it."
-Terrell Dougan, author of That Went Well: Adventures in Caring for My Sister