Dr. Carolyn Shivers: Exploring Empathy in Adolescent Siblings with Disabilities | All Together #44

In this episode, host Dina Sargeant is joined by Dr. Carolyn Shivers, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Niagara University, New York

Things can get a bit tricky when one of the siblings has a disability. In this episode, Dr. Carolyn Shivers wants to help families explore empathy and better support each other. She’s got some great tips to share that can make a big difference in how adolescent siblings with and without disabilities get along. 

Meet Dr. Carolyn Shivers

Dr. Carolyn Shivers teaches psychology as an Associate Professor at Niagara University in New York. She’s been part of many research projects focusing on how having a disabled sibling can affect family life.

She knows that families with a disabled child often face challenges, like balancing their routines around doctor’s appointments. Dr. Carolyn wants to help families understand and support each other better, so she shares advice from books, movies, and podcasts that promote acceptance and empathy for different children.

One book that Dr. Carolyn recommends is The House on the Cerulean Sea, which tells the story of magical children facing isolation because of society’s fears. She finds the themes of acceptance and understanding in this book necessary.

She also suggests watching “The Princess Bride” for its fun adventure and romance while still touching on current issues. And if you’re into podcasts, Dr. Carolyn loves listening to “Maintenance Phase,” which looks at the data behind wellness trends and challenges ideas that might harm some people.

Growing up, Dr. Carolyn was part of a big family that included her immediate family and many aunts, uncles, and cousins. As her friends start having children, she’s taking on the role of “Aunt Carolyn” or “Auntie Carolyn” with joy. She’s always admired her mother, who’s retiring soon.

Her mom has a brother with Down syndrome, and she’s always made sure he feels included and loved. Dr. Carolyn learned much from her upbringing and wants to pass on that sense of inclusion and love to others.

About the episode

The teenage years can be challenging for any siblings, but it can be even more complicated when one of them has a disability. Dr. Carolyn knows about this and shares some great tips for families. She says it’s crucial to understand that everyone in the family might see things differently, especially when there’s a sibling with a disability involved.

Dr. Carolyn discusses empathy, which means understanding and sharing the feelings of others. She explains that it can be challenging, but learning to see things from your siblings’ perspective can make a big difference. She shares stories about how getting closer to her sister with disabilities helped them bond even more.

Moreover, Dr. Carolyn says it’s essential for families to do things together but also give each sibling space to be themselves. She believes families can become even more potent by respecting each other’s feelings and needs.

Dr. Carolyn also discusses her research on ableism and how it affects families. Ableism is the attitude that people with disabilities are less valuable. Dr. Carolyn explains how this can affect how siblings see and treat each other. She encourages families to use language that promotes fairness and understanding so everyone feels included and respected.

Supporting siblings with disabilities means finding ways to communicate and set boundaries that work for everyone. Dr. Carolyn suggests that parents can help by ensuring everyone’s voice and needs are heard. This can help siblings grow closer and learn from each other.

She believes that by making the world more accessible and inclusive, you can all learn to understand and appreciate each other better. With simple changes, like adding sensory rooms in public places, you can create a world where everyone feels welcome.

In conclusion

Empathy is key to building solid relationships with your siblings with disabilities. Families can create a warm and supportive environment for adolescent siblings where everyone can thrive by listening, understanding, and respecting each other.

So find out how to explore empathy through this podcast to keep being kind and caring towards your siblings and watch your bond grow stronger daily.

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