Patrick Young, Able USA
Kids can have all kinds of reactions to moving, often at once. They might be excited for a new adventure, anxious to leave their friends behind, and sad to let go of the place they’ve called home. Broaching the subject is, as a result, always a sensitive matter that parents should take seriously.
If your child has been diagnosed with autism, developmental delays, or another disability, it’s important to take an especially thoughtful approach. The core challenges of a move are no different for people with disabilities than without – unfamiliar surroundings, organizational woes, high stress. However, the intensity of those challenges can be substantially higher. It’s important to give your little one the best chance at a smooth transition. Here are some tips to help you prepare your child for your move.
Let your child know you’re going to be moving as soon as you start searching for a new home. Think of prepping your little ones as a line on your to-do list among building a house budget and finding a real estate agent. Use the methods of communication your child understands and communicates with themselves, and answer any questions they ask. If they’re younger, it might help to pick up a picture book about moving. After all, the idea of living in another house is pretty foreign to very young children.
If your child struggles with memory or comprehension, you may have to tell them several times. It’s important to maintain that same level of compassion and understanding every time you tell them. If they’re forgetting, or if it just hasn’t clicked, they may still be confused or upset the second time and beyond. Approach the conversation with love and understanding, no matter how many times you have it.
Simplify Moving Day
Adults get stressed on moving day – there’s no way around it. Unfortunately, all children – especially children with disabilities – are sensitive to their parents’ moods. If you’re on edge all day on moving day, you may make it harder for your child to regulate their emotions. Before you know it, you could be facing a mutual blow up.
Fortunately, setting yourself up for a simple and low-stress move is easier than you might think. Start packing early, getting everything you won’t need before the move packed up and ready to go. In the week before the move, pack yourself and your family members vacation-style suitcases so you can get everything else put away. Prep ahead some easy oven or microwave meals, and leave out only as many dishes as you need to eat a single meal. You’ll have to wash dishes more, yes, but it’ll leave you with one box to pack at the last minute.
Another great way to reduce stress on moving day is to hire movers. This also keeps you and your family safe – no risk of anyone dropping something on a foot or pulling a muscle lifting above their ability level. Some delivery windows are pricier than others and weekends are often in high demand, so plan your movers well in advance for a shot at getting the time slot you want.
Give Them Resources
There are a lot of resources or methods out there that could help smooth the transition from one house to the next. For example, your child might transition best if their new room is the same color as their old room. Or you may be able to reduce your child’s anxiety about the new space by visiting it several times before you move in.
The specific tools you use should always come down to your child’s needs and preferences. If they’re old enough, ask them what they want. Get their input for ways to make the process easier and less intimidating. If they’re younger, you should ask their doctor or therapist for advice. We also recommend turning to self-advocacy groups as well. You are likely to get an idea or piece of advice that a physician or therapist might not think of.
Moving can be tricky when you have a child with a disability but focus on making the process as easy for them as possible. Ask for their input, respond to their needs, and give them the tools that will help the transition easier on them. Remember, even if you don’t achieve a perfectly smooth transition, you have time to continue to help them learn to feel at home.
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