How to Plan Your Transition to a New Home
If you have a loved one with autism, you know how important predictability and routines are. All of that goes out the window when you have to pack up your house and move. Whether it’s around the corner or to a new country, relocating can be especially difficult for a family member who is on the autism spectrum. Although you can’t eliminate all anxiety a move may cause, you can do many things to make the process easier on your loved ones and yourself.
Since autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children, you are not alone in your desire to find information that can make home relocation easier. The need to keep your child or family member on the autism spectrum on a routine remains just as important — possibly even more so — when you move from one home to another. Fortunately, a wealth of resources are designed with families like yours in mind. This guide highlights ways to plan and execute the transition to your new home.
Preparing for the Move
Introduce the topic
First and foremost, it is imperative that you talk about the move with your family member on the autism spectrum ahead of time. Individuals on the autism spectrum need to be prepared for what is about to take place. Parents magazine advocates plenty of advance notice: “Announce the news with enough warning. A few weeks may be all a younger child needs, but teenagers need a month or more to prepare mentally.”
Accentuate the positive
Do not be surprised if your family member does not immediately jump on board with the idea of the move. Those with autism like routine and familiarity, and a move upsets those things. Therefore, it is important for you to explain positive changes the move will bring. The National Autism Society suggests pointing out benefits of the move, such as bigger bedrooms, bigger yards to play in, or closer proximity to places your child likes to visit.
List places to look forward to
When discussing the upcoming move, take the time to describe the new places your child will enjoy. Tell your child about nearby parks and libraries that he or she will be able to visit frequently. Look for other places in your new location that you know your child will be excited to visit.
Create a visual schedule
Those on the autism spectrum also greatly benefit from a visual schedule of the moving process. Parents magazine suggests, “Make a visual schedule of the moving process. Images that represent cleaning out, packing boxes, a moving truck, a drive and hotel stay, and unpacking will help give meaning to the word ‘moving.’ ” Mark your family calendar or your child’s personal calendar clearly with notations for the impending move.
Visit if possible
Next, if possible, visit the new home. Give your child the opportunity to see his or her new home before moving day. Allow your child to go inside the house and explore the surrounding area. If you are moving a great distance, take advantage of online tools such as Google Earth or videos of the home used by realtors to show your child his or her new home.
Explain what goes and what stays
Depending on the age of your loved one, you may have to explain what moves and what stays. The Center for Autism Research explains, “Similar to a very young child, a child with ASD may need to be told about what is actually moving with the family to the new house and what is staying behind. For example, the child’s bed and toys are going to be in the new house, but the bathtub is staying.” They suggest having children put stickers on items that want to move with them. If your child places a sticker on an item that stays, such as the toilet, it gives you the chance to explain why this item will not be moving with you.
Secure new information
Next, you need to cover the basics. For example, begin teaching your child his or her new address. You should also send records to the new school and doctors well in advance. In the busyness of the move, do not let these things fall to the side. Having important documents secured and prepared for the transfer is critical.
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