Thursday 12 April 2018

How to prepare kids with autism to move home

Keys with a 'keep smiling' key chain

We've just had new neighbours move in next door.  They are a young family and it's fair to say the move in took a long time.  We moved here just before Jane's first birthday.  In fact we were lucky to have sun on her birthday so we could have her party in the garden as the house was still in turmoil. Looking back the boys did really well with it all.   All kids can find change difficult, but with two autistic kids, what did we do to help them with this massive alteration to life as they knew it?

In some ways we were quite lucky that we weren't moving too far away.  Schools weren't changing for our eldest and as David was four and Jane only one year old, they only had a new home to get used to. But it's a big disruption and for any kids who like things routine and to understand what's going on there are things we did to help them.  Most of it in preparation.

Show them what's coming

We asked for several visits to the property prior to exchange.  Although one of these was for a planning appointment with a kitchen fitter, another two were to let the boys look around the house, see the street etc.  We pointed out to Anthony who has ASD and ADHD, which was going to be his bedroom.

David was allowed to just look around the house.  Sure it was going to look different when we were in, but it's a start.  We labelled the house 'new house' so David would know what we were talking about when we said it.

We also visited the local playground so they were familiar with it prior to moving.  This gave them something they already knew when we needed to get out of the house.

Keep home routine the same

Apart from actual moving day the kids home routine stayed pretty much the same with the added addition of stopping at the storage unit every few days.  We packed the house slowly over a few weeks at least.  Getting storage items, packing a few boxes a day and piling them up in a unit at our local storage place.  This meant the change at home was gradual and come moving day, most of the moving was between the storage unit and the 'new house'.

Sometimes new homes come with new furniture but we left this for a while.  We tried to keep the kids bedrooms as much as possible the same between the two properties initially, beds, furnishings, curtains, night lights and even trying to get the windows in roughly the right places.  This all helps kids that usually struggle with sleep.

Aside from this, make a visual schedule of the moving process, give your child a sense of where the family is headed, for example, take a trip to the area so your little one can see local playgrounds and such like, as this helps them to envision having fun in their new home. You should also make sure you announce the move with enough warning so that your child can prepare for it without worrying.

Preparation for moving day

It can be really difficult when sales are delayed or fall through or a rental is withdrawn but you can only go with the facts you have.  Some kids will really benefit from a visual timetable of the upcoming move.  A countdown calendar, especially once you have exchanged or got a move in date.

Some kids will like to unpack their stuff - ours needed it as much as set-up as possible.  You could hire a professional company to help you with the moving process, so that you can focus on your child’s needs rather than worrying about loading your boxes.  If your child is prone to wandering or climbing, you will need to be mindful of potential hazards, such as stacked boxes.

Generally I like to be involved in the move and we are fortunate that we could organise with grandparents to look after the kids for parts of the moving day.  But again, it was important to get the kids to say goodbye to the 'old house' and know they would be going to the 'new house' later.   Some kids may also really benefit from special or sensory toys your little one struggles with anxiety.  Ours consisted mostly of iPads.

We've just celebrated Jane's fifth birthday, so it's been four years here already.  I don't know if or when we will move again as the school situation keeps us fairly anchored. But if we do I'll be trying lots of the same things again and no doubt have some new tricks to help the family adjust once more.

Have you got any great tips?

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