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By Jenny Wise, specialhomeeducator.com
Moving house with kids can feel pretty chaotic, but if you have a child with autism, it’s important to consider how it feels from their shoes. Although not all children with autism are alike, it’s extremely common for kids on the spectrum to get a lot of anxiety about change. If even minor changes in routine leave your kid frazzled or out of sorts, then it’s important to make sure you tackle moving house as compassionately as possible.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to make the processes easier on your child. Here are some tips for how to prepare them for the move, get them used to the new space, and stay attuned to their needs as you go:
Prepping Them for the Move
There are several ways to help your kid get ready for the fact that you’re moving. The first is simple: Tell them. Tell them early, and give them time and room to digest the information. The more time they have to think about it and get used to the idea, the more likely they are to be ready for any anxiety that crops up once the day arrives.
Although you may be tempted to bring your child with you on tours, that can be a bit misguided and often impossible. For example, if you’re buying during COVID-19, you should bring as few people as possible to prevent the spread of germs. Even after the pandemic, however, bringing kids — neurotypical or neurodivergent alike — to a house tour can be a bad call. Kids can easily get irrationally attached to a home that you don’t want to buy for practical reasons. Keeping them out of the house hunt is often the wiser move.
Give Them Coping Skills
If you know — or even suspect — that this process is going to be rough on your child, give them the tools to cope. For example, you can help them with breathing exercises, come up with a list of healthy and soothing stims, or use whatever anxiety-reduction tools work well for them. If your child’s anxiety has escalated to a panic attack in the past, you should also remind yourself of some good techniques for helping your child get out of a panicked state.
You can also incorporate aspects of the move into your child’s coping toolset. For example, the most exciting thing about moving for most kids is the chance to decorate a new room. Get your child involved in the process so you can come up with the perfect bedroom for them. This way they have something specific and special to look forward to in the new house.
Plan for Moving Day
There’s no one right answer when it comes to how to keep your child calm on moving day. Ultimately, it all comes down to your child and your situation. If they’re old enough to help out without hurting themselves or accidentally getting in the way, they may be happiest being involved in the moving. If they’re younger, however, it might be wise to get a babysitter or have them hang out with a family friend for the day.
Another great way to make the day nice is to hire movers. The physical act of moving is tough on untrained people, and it’s easy for stress levels to start to rise. Pros can get your items from point A to point B with far less physical (and emotional) labor on your part.
Ultimately, it’s important to accept that moving may cause some anxiety for your child. This is true whether your little one is on the autism spectrum or not, and your job as a parent is the same either way: Be there, hear them, and remind them that they will adjust to the change with time. Eventually, they’ll feel right at home.
For more resources, advice, and insights on Autism and Asperger’s, visit Dustin’s Dynasty.
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