Autism Social Story: Preparing to Move to a New House


Small changes in schedules or environment can be difficult to handle for children with autism. Moving to a new house and perhaps a new city with a new school is no small change and can be very traumatic for a child with autism. Regardless, sometimes a move to a new house or a new city becomes necessary when life takes a turn like when a parent changes jobs or gets transferred. Some parents find the need to downsize to save money or upsize to accommodate a growing family. Other parents might risk a short-term disruption for better schooling, or to get closer to family for extra support. Others might want to reduce commuting time, so they can spend more time with their children. And, some moves are caused by a change in marital status. These are all valid reasons and many are unavoidable. Whatever the reason, when a move is necessary, make the transition as smooth as possible for your child by pre-planning and preparing. Picture social stories are a great tool to use to prepare your child for any new experience including a traumatic move to a new house.

We are currently using this autism social story to prepare a wonderful child, who happens to have autism, for a move to a new house. For the purposes of this post, we are going to call him Homer.

To save commuting time and money, Homer’s parents needed to downsize their home and move closer to family and Homer’s support team. Although the move was only 40 miles, it was an agonizing decision to make because change is not easy for Homer. Regardless, they decided that the longterm benefits would outweigh the short term adjustment issues.

Homer’s parents expressed their concerns to us at Kidmunicate, so we recommended that they use a social story to help prepare Homer. We created “Preparing to Move to a New House” for Homer and all children with autism who need to move from one house to another.

Here are some tips to help you prepare a child with autism for a move to a new house.

BE PREPARED

  • Use the picture Social Story to start preparing your child for a successful transition.
    • Explaining the situation and setting expectations prior to a new experience will help your child transition to the new environment.
    • During the time leading up to the move to the new house, we recommend that you establish a daily routine that consists of counting off days on a calendar clearly marked with the move date and reading the social picture story “Preparing to move to a new house”.
    • Customize this social story by adding or eliminating elements.
      • Make it relevant for your child.
        • Put pictures in of your current house and the new house.
        • Place a picture of his/her old room and let him/her know that the new room will look similar.
      • Upon request, we will send you a free Powerpoint® version of this social story so that you can customize it.

BE PROACTIVE

  • Scout out the new neighborhood.
    • Look for areas that might interest your child.
    • Look for potential dangers.
    • Inform your new neighbors that your child has special needs.
      • They will be more understanding and helpful.
  • Don’t let your guard down or get distracted during this chaotic time.
    • Stacked boxes can be dangerous to a child with autism.
    • Opened doors are another potential danger
      • Research of 800 parents with ASD children shows 50% of children between 4 and 10 with ASD wander. This is 4 times more likely than siblings who are not on the spectrum.
        • According to a study, 33% of wanderers are trying to escape an anxious situation, which moving surely is.
        • Put locks on the doors or alarms that signal when a door is opened.
  • Have your child participate in some aspects of the move.
    • Have your child pack up a box with his/her favorite things and have them mark the box with their name.
    • Let them know that they will help unpack that same box in the new house.
  • Don’t pack everything.
    • Put some of your child’s favorite things aside, so they do not get packed up in a box.
    • These items will provide comfort or engagement for your child during the move.
  • Moving to a new school?
    • Contact the school and let them know about your child’s needs.

    • Share the IEP with the school.

    • Tour the new school with your child before school starts.

BE PRACTICAL

  • No matter how much you prepare, moving will likely be a distressing event for your child.
    • You might want to arrange to have your child stay at a friend’s or relative’s house during moving day.
    • The empty house could be upsetting to a child with autism.
    • You might want to set up your child’s new room to look somewhat familiar to the old one before your child arrives.

TRY TO RELAX

  • Moving will be stressful for you too, but try to relax and even enjoy the adventure.

    • This will send a signal to your child that everything is going to be OK.

The Kidmunication Point

There are many twists and turns on the path of life and some require a move to a new house across town or across states. Parents of children with autism try to avoid change, but change is inescapable sometimes. A move is a really big change and can be a traumatic experience for a child with autism. The key to a successful move is preparation and this social story can be the first step in that process.

Many thanks to Pam Drennen and Kidmunicate for their kind permission for the use of this article. 

 

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