For families with children, moving to a new home can be stressful enough, but for those families who have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it can be extremely frustrating. Big changes, like moving to a new home, can be a trigger for all kinds of stress and anxiety in an ASD child. Here are some things that you can do before and during the move to help your ASD child cope with the process.
Talk about the move
As soon as you know that you are moving, talk to your ASD child about the move and the reasons why you are moving. Be sure to highlight the positive, and point out things that will change for the better, such as your child getting a larger room or having more outdoor space to play in. Also, be sure to point out the things that will stay the same, if appropriate. For example, if you are just moving across town and your child will still attend the same school, be sure to let them know. A lot of anxiety can be avoided by simply clarifying the "unknown" aspects of the move for your child.
If possible, take photos of the new home before you move, and show them to your child. It may help to create a social story to help your child understand why you are moving and what the new house will offer.
Hire professional movers
This will help you out in many different ways, since it will not only make the move easier for you, but it will also allow you to focus all of your attention on your ASD child during the process. Some children with ASD may be prone to wandering, which can be especially dangerous if you and your child aren't familiar with the area. Explain to the movers that your child has ASD and may be tempted to wander off or even try to get in the way of their work. If this is the case, you might want to consider having a relative or other caregiver take your child out for a fun activity while the movers are working.
Your ASD child may be fascinated by the moving company's process, or they may be concerned that they won't see their belongings ever again. Either way, be sure to allow your child to keep their favorite items separate from the items that the movers pack, so you can take them with you when you go. This way, your child won't have to be separated from their belongings and you can begin to make the home feel more familiar.
Try to get the move done in one day if possible. If you can't, make sure that you have access to your child's belongings while you are waiting to move in. Some moving companies provide temporary storage during the move. If yours does, be sure to ask if you can access your items, or at least those that belong to your child, while you are waiting to move in. For more information, see a website such as http://midwaymoving.com.
Make safety a priority
If your child is prone to wandering, it's a good idea to make sure that the doors leading outside all have working locks and consider installing alarms, too. It's also important that you familiarize yourself with any "attractions" in the area that your child may be drawn to, like playgrounds or swimming pools. Make a point to get to know your neighbors and introduce your child, explaining that they have ASD and could be prone to wandering. Be sure to leave your contact information so that you can be reached if your neighbors see your child wandering around without you.
Plan for the move to be stressful, and if your ASD child copes better than you expect, it will be a happy bonus for both of you. Try to be patient and remember that your child isn't you, and may not be as happy and excited by the whole process as you are. Lower your expectations and go with the flow, and you'll all be settled into the new home in no time.