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    Posted July 30, 2013 by

    3 College Students Drive 10,000 Miles to Interview Siblings of Individuals with Special Needs


    Three college students spent their summer driving around the perimeter of the country interviewing siblings of individuals with developmental disabilities, special needs, and mental illnesses. Funded by a grant from Princeton University, Claire Nuchtern (’15 at Princeton), Eliana Rosenthal (’16 at Brandeis University), and Renee Frederick (’16 at University of Texas at Austin) have just wrapped their summer project of interviewing as many siblings as possible around the United States. Their final interview count was over 75.


    The three young women met at a community service summer camp at Brandeis University in 2011. Instantly, they became great friends and have kept in close contact over the last two years despite the fact that they all go to schools in different states.They are interviewing males and females of all different races, ages, and socio-economic standings in the hopes of gaining a better perspective on what it is like to be the sibling of someone who is neurologically atypical.


    They are looking at disabilities ranging from mental retardation to the Autistic spectrum to Down Syndrome to chromosome disorders. The idea arose from conversations Claire and Ellie had during high school about their own siblings, both on the Autistic Spectrum (Claire’s brother has Asperger’s and Ellie’s sister has Pervasive Developmental Disorder). They, along with their good friend Renee, wanted to learn more about how having a sibling with developmental disabilities affects other siblings.


    They are interviewing a wide range of diverse siblings and specifically looking for family dynamics during childhood, emotional effects on siblings, and future plans of siblings of people with special needs. They hope to provide more information on this area that can hopefully lead to more research and more support for siblings. Ellie, a psychology major, will be using this summer in later research.


    They began driving on June 11th in Houston, Texas and drove through a total of 28 US states. Through social media and extensive outreach, they have compiled a list of over 80 interviewees, including siblings and administrators at non-profits and special needs organizations and programs.


    For more information about their journey, check out: www.sibsjourney.wordpress.com.

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