According to the CDC, a core feature of autism spectrum disorder, regardless of the person’s age, is a love of routine and anxiety that comes with sudden change. As you prepare to move, focus on creating a new routine, planning for the move, and talking to your child about the changes well ahead of time. Work with your child’s therapists, teachers, and behavior specialists to help your child with this transition as well, and follow the five tips from the Big Abilities blog to make the experience easier for your whole family.
1. Focus on What Remains the Same
Are you staying in the same town? Perhaps your move is within the same school district, and your child’s educational life will stay the same. If you are moving to a new city or state, try to visit before you officially move. Alternately, find pictures of the new home, neighborhood, and school to help your child adjust. Depending on his or her age and developmental level, he or she may want to talk repeatedly about the new routine, organize the pictures, or ask a lot of detailed questions about the move to prepare for the change.
It can also be helpful to hold on to familiar things instead of getting new ones, like furniture. This is especially true if your child has a favorite piece. Though you may balk at installing old pieces of furniture in a new home, especially if it’s not in very good condition. However, you may find that a good deep cleaning is the ticket to making it look as good as new. Search for the best furniture cleaning company in your area. As a rule, make sure to find out what sort of tools and cleaning supplies they use — a truly reputable and professional one will steer clear of all-in-one types and use solutions geared toward the fabric or material of the furniture.
2. Create a Social Story
Social stories are a much-loved component of autism treatment as they help children on the spectrum to place themselves in unfamiliar situations through the use of a fictional story. Some social stories can be downloaded or purchased online, while others can be written by teachers, behavior therapists, or even parents! Consider creating your own social story about the child’s move and incorporate pictures from the new house or city if applicable.
3. Ask Your Child’s Teacher and Therapists for Help
If your child sees a behavior therapist, occupational therapist, or another type of autism specialist, don’t be afraid to ask him or her for help in this transition. Your child’s teacher can help prepare him or her for the move as well. Teachers are often great resources as they have connections within and outside of their school district.
4. Practice Your New Routines
If you are moving to a new home in the same city, take your child to the new neighborhood several times before the move takes place. Let him orient himself within the neighborhood, play at the local park, and point out similarities and beneficial differences in the new location. You may also want to practice driving to the child’s new school if he or she will be switching schools after the move or calling teachers for meet-and-greets if the child will attend a virtual program.
5. Be Cautious When Taking Your Child House Hunting
If you think your child with ASD would be highly inflexible during the home selection process – for example, perhaps he wants a specific house that is well out of your price range – only ask for his input when you are narrowing down your selections to the last few, realistic choices. Consider researching prices in your area, asking a realtor about the local market, and performing most of the prep work before you ask your child’s opinion if you think this will be an issue.
Though you may expect your child with autism to be inflexible, emotional, or withdrawn during the home visiting process, do not count on this as a certainty. Many children on the spectrum, just like neurotypical children, enjoy the idea of “house-hunting” and find it fun to visit potential homes and participate in the selection process with their parents. They may, however, need extra help when it comes to settling into the new routine.
Tilda Moore is passionate about helping parents and teachers provide kids with the best education possible. She writes for OpenEducators.org, a website about educational resources and tools to help children find scholastic achievement.