Moving is complicated for anyone, but it's part of our lives: when we move from our parent's house, find somewhere new to live, or relocate for a job. But, no matter the reason, it's a stressful process. When you have an autistic child in the mix, it becomes a challenge.
Children with autism spectrum disorder rely on routine and consistency in their life. Most children find comfort in the familiar; that's why the prospect of moving home sounds awful. During this period, it's essential to help relieve the stress for you and your autistic child.
That’s why this article shares tips for moving out with a child with autism.
What Is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder is defined by a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with repetitive behaviors, social skills, speech, and nonverbal communication. Nowadays, approximately 1 in 44 children is diagnosed with autism after the age of four. Boys are more likely to have autism than girls.
Discover the reason in this article: Understanding Autism in Girls.
Autism has many different subtypes, and the challenges and strengths of each autistic person can vary depending on the person. Each child is unique so moving might impact them differently.
Why Is Routine Important?
Children on the spectrum might have difficulty processing sensory information. If their environment changes in any way, autistic children can experience sensory overload. Established routines prevent sensory overload because they allow children to expect predictable outcomes and relieve stress from too many changes.
Maintaining a routine as much as possible during a move will help your little one feel more comfortable.
Tips for Moving
When moving, it's essential to use consistent communication and positive reinforcement. By focusing on the positive aspects of the move, you can help your child equate it in their mind with positive thoughts. For example, you might tell them they will get a bigger bedroom, or there are plenty of new things to do in the new location. It's essential to get them excited about the change.
Without further ado, here are some tips to help make the transition (slightly) easier.
Keep the Routines
Maintaining normalcy during this stressful time will help your children adjust to your new home quickly—and settle in nicely and comfortably. It might not be easy to keep routines while packing, but do your best to keep mealtimes, bedtimes, daily tasks, and other aspects of your child's life the same during the process.
If you move somewhere close to your last home, you can take your child to the new neighborhood before the move. Let your child orient themselves in the new area and point out similarities and beneficial differences in the new place.
Talk to Your Child
Try to prepare the child for the move by giving notice beforehand. Children want to be involved as much as possible. They might not understand why they are moving, but offer as much information as you can in simple words. It's also important to let your children know why they're moving, whether for a job or to downsize. Let them ask you questions to help them get a better understanding. Such a significant change requires time and patience.
Provide Visual Aids
Visual learning is always handy when making children understand why they're moving. Use photos of your old and new home to help them understand what's changing. Visit the new house in person and let your child explore their surroundings.
Social stories are a great way to explain things to children on the spectrum. They help place the child in unfamiliar situations through a fictional story. You can download social stories on the Internet or even create your own. If possible, you can write a social story about the move and incorporate pictures from the new home and neighborhood.
Furthermore, you can create a calendar to keep your child in the loop. A visual calendar is the best way to keep your little one informed since it will hold a child’s attention and help reduce anxiety.
During the move, prioritize safety, especially if your child is curious. Stacked boxes, scissors, or heavy movement equipment can be dangerous. If you are hiring a moving service to help you, strangers in your home can trigger your little one. Tell the people to keep the noise at a minimum, but if they can't, keep your child away from all the activity.
In addition, think about your child's triggers and help mitigate the stress. For example, your child might need help understanding why their belongings are in boxes. Have photos at hand with the new house, so they know where their belongings are going.
Ask for Help
If your little one is too young or unable to assist with the move, ask your family or friends to watch over them. The person you choose should be familiar with your child or someone your child is fond of and comfortable with. Afterward, choose a quiet room or take them to the park while you pack.
Let Your Child Be Involved
Sometimes, it's more beneficial to let your child be involved in the move, like packing up their items, labeling boxes, or cleaning their room. Involving your child in the process will give them a sense of control—which can be beneficial during this chaotic time.
If your child is having difficulty understanding what will happen to their belongings, keep them involved in the packing process. This way, they will see which boxes their belongings go into.
To make the packing process easier, use the following tips:
- Use colorful or transparent boxes to help your little one see what’s going into which box.
- You can label the boxes with the child’s name and contents; this way, the child knows what’s theirs.
- To maintain normalcy, pack your child’s room last. Let your child pick what they want to keep and what they want to get rid of.
- Offer a reward at the end of the day.
Bring Comforting Items
Any source of comfort for your child is welcome, be it a toy or blanket. Try to pack these things last, or make a travel pack with your child's favorite toys or foods.
Here are some items you can try:
Set Up the Comfort Zone
One of the first things you have to do is get their room set up as soon as possible. Doing this allows your child to establish a comfort zone for themselves and have a place to cool down. You can help them set up their new space and decorate it just like their old room.
The bottom line is you got this. It might seem hard at first, but you can do anything with patience and a positive attitude. Make sure to create a comprehensive plan for the transition—and stick to a routine as much as possible.