Moving to a new home is never easy for any child, but for a child with autism—especially one like my non-speaking son who thrives on routines and knowing what to expect from his days and environments—it can be downright terrible.
- 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 and will benefit from seeing the upcoming moving day on a calendar.
- Give kids a sense of where the family is headed. Show pictures of the new home and your child’s room, as well as the neighborhood and school.
- Make a visual schedule of the moving process. Images to represent cleaning out, packing boxes, a moving truck, a drive and hotel stay, and unpacking will help give meaning to the word, “moving.”
- Get kids involved in the packing process. Having your child help to clean out and pack a bedroom gives the opportunity to talk about how what goes into the boxes will come back out at the new home.
- Make school continuity a priority. Contact the new school before you move to let them know about your child’s needs and share a copy of his or her individualized education plan (IEP). Encourage older students to write a note (with your assistance, if needed) to the new counselor to ask for help getting to know the school.
On Moving Day
- Consider safety and security. If your child with ASD is prone to climbing or wandering, keep in mind the height of stacked boxes and the likelihood of open doors and windows on moving day.
- Arrange for help if needed. Ask a trusted neighbor, grandparent or loved one to care for your child at least part of the day.
- Try to involve your child in some part of the move such as sweeping each room as it is emptied. Avoid having your child return to an empty house if they have not been involved in helping with the move. They may not understand why their house is empty, which could be upsetting.
- Pack favorite toys and comfort items last. Give kids a choice for what to keep unpacked until the last day. Mark your boxes clearly so that comfort items can be easily accessed upon arrival in the new home.
- Consider keeping some items handy as part of a comfort kit complete with favorite foods to keep with you during travel to your new home.
These tips will help you to move when your child has autism.