For twenty-eight-year-old Mira Patel, a new support group for siblings of individuals with developmental disabilities has meant making connections with others who share similar life experiences.

The newly launched “Brothers & Sisters” program from Decatur-based nonprofit All About Developmental Disabilities is looking to provide a network for individuals like Patel who have siblings with a developmental disability.

The group is bringing together the siblings for fun, networking, peer support and volunteer opportunities. Tosha Connors, director of development for the nonprofit, said the group is open to those who have siblings with a disability, those with a disability themselves or even to other young professionals interested in learning more about disabilities.

Patel, whose younger brother has a mild intellectual disability, said the group has meant meeting others who understand a lot of her experiences because they have dealt with similar ones.

“The people I met at the first event were awesome and I found out we had things in common,” Patel said. “I often talk with my friends about how my brother did this or that and how he and I argue, and they get it on some level [...] but they do not understand the level I am coming from.”

The group’s inaugural event held at the Red Brick Brewing Company was small, but successful, according to Connors.

“At the end of the night, a girl came up to me and said that her brother has a very rare developmental disability and that she met a stranger at the event whose brother had the exact same rare disability,” Connors said. “We had three separate incidents where people connected with someone challenged with the same kinds of disabilities [...] and it was very moving to hear.”

Connors said the program came about after a former intern with a sister with a developmental disability expressed that she did not have many peers who were going through similar situations.

“[Our intern] expressed how great it would be to know people of her age who also had siblings with a developmental disability,” Connors said. “They could talk about the challenges, treatments, how they were managing and share resources.”

Connors said that she often hears from families that when their child is diagnosed on the autism spectrum, it can be overwhelming to try and find information. With this group, she said they wanted to be a place of referral for brothers and sisters to come and find that information they need.

Going forward, Connors said she hopes the niche group will continue to grow as word spreads.

“We want to grow our volunteer pool and want to connect with young professionals now, get them interested and involved so they will become dedicated to our organization,” Connors said. “When you talk about disabilities, it is not the ‘sexy’ cause like orphaned children or puppies, and often it can make people feel uncomfortable at first. Having young professionals involved will help make this cause more accessible.”

Patel is one such young professional, working as a job coach at Jewish Family and Career Services in Decatur There, she works with clients who have disabilities to help support them in their jobs. Her current job actually came about during a time when she was helping her brother find his own job, she said.

For more information on how to get involved with the group of other programs with All About Developmental Disabilities, visit aadd.org.

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