By Jenny Wise
Moving when you have a child on the autism spectrum presents extra challenges, but it can be managed with preparation and patience. Along with preparing your child well ahead of time, consider ways to make the move easier. Moving to a home that’s right for your child will relieve pressure, and hiring movers to reduce the stress of moving day will make everything run smoother. If you need more support or ideas, turn to Raising Special Roses for help.
Finding the right house
Before you begin house-hunting, consider what features to look for that would help your child thrive. The best layout to look for is an open floor plan with minimal decor. Avoid homes with busy wallpaper, which could lead to a sensory overload for a child with autism. One great feature is having dimmable lights—bright lights can be overwhelming for some children on the spectrum, so having the ability to create a low-light setting will help soothe your child.
As you conduct your research, it’s important to determine how much home you can afford. Consider details such as your annual income, what you’ll need to pay for a down payment, and your consistent monthly expenses. Research the home prices in the area you plan to move to so you can compare different neighborhoods as you search.
Getting ready for the move
One of the best ways to handle moving with an autistic child is preparation. Children on the spectrum usually have a difficult time coping with big changes, so explaining the upcoming move in detail will help your child visualize and mentally prepare. The amount of warning depends on the age of your child—a younger child may need a few weeks to prepare, while a teenager could use a month or more.
Visual aids can be helpful for preparing your child for the move. Once you know where you’re moving to, take as many photos as you can of the new house—including your child’s future bedroom—and allow your child to reference the photos as often as necessary.
Along with visual aids, get your kid involved in the packing process so they know what’s happening. It’s best to pack their room last to maintain normalcy for as long as you can, but when the time comes, find some brightly colored boxes and write their name on each box to alleviate anxiety about losing any belongings.
The day you move house will be challenging, which is why it’s vital to establish a strong plan. Safety and security are key: if your child is prone to wandering or climbing on things, you’ll want to keep a close eye on them throughout the day.
Consider getting some help for the day—a neighbor, friend, someone close to your child, or even daycare could help with distractions and activities to help relieve stress. Put together a small bag of your child’s favorite items that make them feel relaxed and secure, whether it’s toys or their favorite books.
If they want to be involved, give them small tasks like sweeping out a room after it’s been emptied. Or if an empty house is likely to give your child anxiety, have them help with moving personal items into the new house. It’s a great idea to hire a moving service to make your moving day go smoothly—not only will they take care of the heavy lifting for you, but the service will also free up your time so you can focus on your child’s mental and physical safety.
When it’s time to find a new home, be sure to think about features that will make your child’s life easier, from an open floor plan to dimmable lights for sensory comfort. Prepare your child for the move by giving them plenty of warning and providing visual aids so they can visualize their new house. On moving day, get as much help as you can by hiring movers and asking friends or family to help.