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5 Tips for Moving With a Child on the Autism Spectrum

March 8, 2024

Moving can be one of the most stressful events in life. Moving with a child on the autism spectrum is especially complicated and can be an emotional rollercoaster. 

We are a military family, so moving is just part of our lives. Transitions, however, are still tough. Whether you have just moved or are planning an upcoming move, I wanted to share a few things that have helped our family navigate the daunting process of moving to another house with autism.

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Tip 1: Prepare your child

First, we started talking about the move two months before it actually happened. We wanted to have ample time to prepare Chloe. We made sure she understood the process of moving and all the steps involved without overwhelming her or making her anxious. It was a delicate balance. 

We talked about all the positives and asked about her dreams for our new house. Her room would be the first room to be set up and complete. 

Involve your child in the process as much as possible. This can include discussing the move well in advance, allowing them to express their thoughts and feelings about it, and giving them choices and control over certain aspects, such as choosing the color of their new room.

By actively involving them, you can help alleviate anxiety and empower them during this transition.

Tip 2: Prepare the team

We told her teacher about our move so she could talk with Chloe about it if she brought it up at school. We didn’t want anything to surprise her, at least not the elements we could control.

We then called an IEP meeting one month prior to our move to make sure her IEP was good to go, and Chloe would be set up for success in our new district, which was out of state. I learned that a new state and school district usually have 60-90 days before they are required by law to transfer the IEP to their state format. 

Communicate with your child’s new teachers and school administrators throughout the moving process. Before the move, share important information about your child’s specific needs, abilities, and challenges with their current teachers. This helps them understand your child better and prepares them to provide appropriate support during the transition.

Don’t forget to reach out to the new school’s Special Education Director or relevant personnel. Discuss any concerns or questions you have about transferring your child’s IEP to the new district.

On the day before your child starts at their new school, I suggest you send an email introducing your child to their new teacher and any intervention specialists. Share insights about your child’s strengths and areas where they might need extra support. This proactive approach allows the new school staff to prepare effectively, creating a smooth transition for your child.

If something isn’t working for your child in the first few weeks, do not be afraid to speak up, call an IEP meeting, and ask for more accommodations. It can make a world of difference.

A mother talking to her daughter's therapist
https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/moving-with-child-autism-spectrum/

Tip 3: Prepare the new community

Meeting our new neighbors was something that was at the top of our priority list. No one there knew our children, and we wanted to introduce them, particularly for safety reasons. 

I know many parents with nonverbal children ensure their neighbors know their child and the fact that they have autism, as well as their specific safety concerns. Safety concerns regarding whether they understand the street danger, if they elope, or if they are drawn to water are very important safety concerns, especially in a new environment. 

We are working with Chloe to help her memorize our new address in case of an emergency situation. Also, finding other advocates or advocacy groups locally can make a world of difference in getting involved in a new city and community. There are wonderful support and advocacy groups everywhere, you just have to find them.

Tip 4: Prepare the new environment

Once our house was unpacked and Chloe was set with school, we wanted to set up a sensory-friendly outdoor space for her and her siblings to play. We purchased a new trampoline with a safety net, a swing set, a sandbox, and patio furniture. 

Outdoor play and jumping really help her to regulate, especially after a hard day. Jumping is known to be soothing for children on the spectrum as well as provides sensory input. If you don’t have a backyard, there are mini indoor trampolines that work well, too. 

Regular sand or kinetic sand play are also two great sensory activities that can be done outside. We have found colorful kinetic sand kits that provide hours of sensory fun.

Tip 5: Keep communication lines open

I believe having open conversations about moving and the changes that accompany a move is important. It allows children to share their feelings in a safe space. 

Feelings are validated, and kids learn not to suppress or hide emotions. Moving can uncover repressed emotions in both children and adults, so journaling or drawing with your child can be a therapeutic activity to do together.




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The ups and downs of moving and autism

It was a few chaotic months with a lot of ups and downs, but we made it. We are finally unpacked, settled into our new house, and working on making it a home. I hope these tips and tricks can help make your transition and move a bit easier for you and your family so that you can enjoy the new adventure that awaits you.

FAQs

Q: How can a parent deal with moving to another house with autism?

A: When moving to another house with autism, it’s important to maintain familiar routines and provide ample preparation time, including visual aids and social stories, to ease the transition. Creating a sensory-friendly environment in the new home and gradually introducing changes can help minimize stress and promote adjustment.

Q: How does moving affect a child with autism?

A: Moving can disrupt routine and familiarity, potentially causing stress and anxiety for a child with autism. It’s essential to provide support, maintain consistency, and gradually introduce the new environment to help them adjust more smoothly.

Q: Why are transitions hard for autism?

A: Transitions can be challenging for individuals with autism due to difficulties with flexibility and adapting to change, which are common characteristics of the condition. Additionally, the sensory sensitivities and social communication challenges experienced by many individuals with autism can exacerbate the stress of transitioning between activities, environments, or life stages.

Q: Can autistic people change their habits?

A: Yes, autistic people can change their habits, just like anyone else. However, the process may require patience, support, and understanding to navigate challenges and adapt successfully.

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