Transitions can be difficult and stressful for most people as we require some time to adapt to the changes when moving into a new home. As children with autism tend to enjoy routines and dislike changes, they may struggle with changes and transitions, such as moving into a new home. These changes can be stressful and anxiety-provoking for them, and they may display disruptive behaviours. However, it is possible to ease the difficulties of moving with a child with autism by preparing them for the big move and helping them settle into the new home. This article aims to share some tips to help children with autism cope with moving into a new home.
To prepare your child in advance for the move, provide them with concrete information of what changes they need to expect a few weeks to months to help them cope better. Below are some ways to prepare them for moving into a new home:
1. Social Stories
Prepare pictures of family members in both the old and new house, the moving process, and your child’s new room so that your child knows where he or she will be moving to. Using the pictures, create a personalised social story of the entire moving process. Additionally, provide your child with the information and pictures about the new home, neighbourhood, and school and how your child can be involved in the moving process. If it is possible, bring your child to the new home for a visit before moving into the house to increase their familiarity with the environment and so that they would feel less anxious.
2. Visual Schedule
A visual timeline of what happens before the big move, during, and after the moving day helps your child know the sequence of events to expect. Pictures of packing belongings into boxes, a moving truck, and unpacking boxes in the new home can give your child a better understanding of what “moving” means. Use a countdown to the moving day to prepare your child for when the moving day will be by crossing off each day on the calendar at the same time of the day.
3. Getting your child involved
Your child can be involved and be given choices by helping to pack the belongings they want to be moving into the new house. By pasting stickers on the boxes that contain their items, your child may feel more reassured that their belongings will be moving into the new home. The stickers also indicate that the boxes will be the first few to be unpacked at the new house. You may pack your child’s room last and give them a choice on what to remain unpacked until the last few days before the moving day.
During discussions about moving, convey positivity about it by highlighting the positive changes they can expect and also reassure them that their belongings will be moving into the new home. By preparing your child for the moving day, they can better cope as they anticipate the events during and after the moving day.
1. Prepare a bag of your child’s favourite toys and snacks to keep them engaged when moving to the new home.
2. Arrange for help. If your child does not want to be involved in the packing process or may be overly stressed by the moving process, arrange for help by asking a trusted relative or family friend to care for your child. Move your child back to the new home when his or her room is ready and packed.
3. Create a safety plan. As children with autism are prone to wandering, installing safety tools such as door alarm systems and locks before moving into your new home can prevent your child from wandering or running off, especially if there is little adult supervision.
4. Continue getting your child involved. If your child agrees to be involved in the moving process, you can give them a choice on where they want to place their belongings in their room.
5. Set up your child’s room first. The quicker your child’s room gets organised and familiar, the more settled your child would feel.
Settling In Tips
1. Make the house reinforcing
At the new home, prepare your child’s favourite meals, snacks, and games. These positive reinforcements will improve their attitude towards the new home, and they may begin to associate the new home with their favourite things!
2. Give your child time to adjust to the new home
Do understand that your child would require some time to adjust to the new home and neighbourhood as they could still have troubles with the transition to living in a new home and thus may still feel sad or anxious after the move.
3. Familiarise your child in the new neighbourhood
Familiarise your child in the new neighbourhood by walking around to find out places of interest. Additionally, meet your new neighbours and if comfortable, share information about your child’s needs so that they can support you when you need help.
While relocating and adapting to changes may be stressful, we hope that the above tips can ease the difficulties of moving into a new home and help your child feel less anxious about the transition.
Written by Sylvia.
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