If you have a child with autism, you already know that routines and staying calm are vital. If you are relocating, however, many of your normal routines will go out the window as you sell your current home, pack up your belongings, go house-hunting in your new neighborhood and acclimatize to a different house. While this can be a trying time for any family, your autistic child may have more meltdowns than usual, causing even more stress for everyone involved. Here are some tips on helping your child get through the process of moving.
1. Take small steps in the packing process.
While you would like to get it over with as quickly as possible, suddenly packing up all of your belongings can feel extremely overwhelming and frustrating to a child with autism. Instead, break down the process into smaller steps. Depending on your child's age and developmental level, he or she may or may not understand what is happening, but you can begin by bringing in boxes, explaining what they are for. Then, pack up your bedroom and other rooms that are not usually used by your child.
Pack rooms such as the kitchen and living room gradually, saving the items that your child uses until the last day, if possible. It's best to leave his or her bedroom until the last minute in many cases.
2. Take advantage of regular caregivers or school, if possible.
If your child is already in daycare or school, use this time to your advantage. He or she is occupied and safe during the workweek, so try to schedule house showings and various appointments during those hours, even if it's less convenient for you. On moving day, plan to have someone else watch your child, whether it's daycare, a grandparent or a well-loved neighbor.
The actual moving-in process will also be easier to accomplish when your child is occupied with someone else. The first room set up should be the child's, and if at all possible, it should be arranged like it was in the old house. Take photos of the room (and the rest of the rooms of the house) as you move in with your phone. You can then share these pictures with your child before bringing him or her into the new house.
If you have safety equipment in your old home, be sure to replicate the same type of safety system in your new home. Door alarms, latches and cabinet locks, if needed, should be installed before you bring your child to the new home. A strange environment might cause him or her to try to leave the house or get into places that are not safe, so being proactive will help keep him or her out of harm's way.
3. Get to know your new neighborhood.
Within a day or two of the move, start walking with your child around the neighborhood. He or she should begin meeting the neighbors, and you should consider letting them know about your child's condition, particularly if he or she has gotten out of the house before. It's easy for a child with autism to get disoriented or confused in a strange place, so the more familiar you can make them with the neighborhood, the better. Also, explaining your child's struggles to your neighbors can make them more understanding and less likely to panic should they witness potentially disturbing behaviors.
By taking small steps, explaining the process as well as you can, relying on your trusted childcare providers to help, and familiarizing your child with the new neighborhood, you can make the transition into a new home as smooth as possible for your child. Contact a local professional, such as a.m.p.m. Movers, if you need help with all of those boxes, too.