If you are rearing a child with autism, then you are already a hero. But even heroes can have a vulnerability. For many parents of autistic children, that vulnerability is moving. Moving with children or teenagers is hard enough, but autistic children and teens tend to be much more reliant on routine and consistency in their environment. This fact is what makes even the concept of moving difficult for some autistic youngsters.
Tips for Moving with an Autistic Child
Still, some moves are unavoidable. So if you are planning a relocation and are the parent of an autistic child, here are some general rules of thumb that can make the preparation, transition, and aftermath easier for you and your child.
#1 Keep Routines Intact
Keeping routines can be difficult when you are packing and planning a move. But, it is essential to understand that many autistic children have repetitive behaviors that they cling to for comfort. Do your best to keep mealtimes, bedtimes, daily tasks, and all other aspects of your autistic child’s daily routine the same during the moving process.
#2 Give Advance Notice
Doing this is a good rule for any child but especially for autistic children who may have trouble expressing their feelings and processing new information. Tell them about the move as soon as you can. Also, try to explain to them the reasons for the move in a simple way.
Children want to be involved and are much more sensitive to surroundings than we as adults realize.
#3 Highlight the Positive Aspects
By focusing on and continuously reinforcing the positive aspects of a move, you can help your child equate it in their mind with positive thoughts. Explain to them that they might get a bigger bedroom will be closer to relatives or are moving to a city with a lot of things to do that interests them. Get them excited about this change!
#4 Use Visual Aids
Some Autistic children are better at processing information if they have visual aids present. Try showing your child pictures of your new home or city. If you are moving closer to relatives, show them photos of the family, so they have something both visual and positive to associate with the move.
#5 Keep Safety in Mind
According to long-distance movers in Dallas, if you have a particularly curious child, then you need to keep the home environment safe during the move. Things like stacked boxes, scissors, and heavy moving equipment (dollies, etc.) can be dangerous for a precocious child who loves to explore.
#6 Ask for Help From Friends and Relatives
If your child is too young or otherwise unable to assist with the move, it may be helpful to ask a friend or family member to watch them. This person needs to be someone that your child is very fond of or at least comfortable around. That way, they can watch them during parts of your move.
Doing this could be something as simple as taking them to the park or setting aside one room in your home that will be calm. Learn more about finding a babysitter for autistic children here.
#7 Encourage Involvement
On the other hand, it could be more beneficial for your child to get them involved in the move. If your child is old enough or you feel that is the case for your child don’t shy away from assigning them small tasks like packing up their things, cleaning their room and labeling boxes.
For some children allowing them to be involved and have a sense of control can do a world of good during this chaotic time.
#8 Be Aware of Sound and Activity
This tip may be especially helpful if you are hiring a moving service to help you. Strange people in the home can trigger an Autistic child, and so can loud noises during the move.
If you feel this may be an issue, explain to your child that you have people to help with the move and will try to keep loud noises to a minimum. If you can’t, it may be best to keep your child away from the epicenters of activity.
#9 Comforting Items
If your child has a toy, blanket, or any item that is a source of comfort for them, try to pack those things last. It may also be helpful to keep their favorite foods handy as an added source of support during the move.
#10 Re-Establish Routine
Once you have moved to your new place, do your best to re-establish a routine for your child. Try to make it as similar to their current routines as possible too. Set their room up in a similar way, and have mealtimes at the same time you would in your old home.
#11 Show Them Around
Show your child their new neighborhood, the route to school, and places they will frequently be visiting. Be there with them to explain everything in a gentle, positive, and nurturing manner. If there is something, they love to do be sure to show them those places as well.
Whether your child loves parks, sports or museums ensures your child can associate their new home with the activities they enjoy.
#12 Set Up Their Comfort Zone
One of the first things you will want to do for your child in your new home is to get their room set up. Doing this will allow them to establish a comfort zone for themselves as soon as possible. Let them help set up their new space as much as they can as well. Click here to learn more about creating a calming space for autistic children.
Other Considerations for Moving with an Autistic Child
Establishing a network of support in a new neighborhood is essential for parents of autistic children as well. Reach out to neighbors, community figureheads, and teachers and inform them of your child’s needs and tendencies.
Above all, though, take it slow. Make the moving process as gradual as you can. No one knows your child better than you do, so consider their feelings throughout every phase of the move and adjust accordingly. You’ve got this!