Everyone knows moving can be chaotic and create a storm of different emotions. For a person with disabilities or special needs, the stress of moving can be even more difficult. April is Autism Awareness Month and the effects of moving can be even more pronounced for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as it is not uncommon for children on the autism spectrum to be hyper-dependent on routine and order. Fortunately, there are steps you can take throughout the move to make the experience easier for persons of disability or special needs.
· Evaluate your new home for accessibility. You will need to fully access the space to determine whether or not modifications will need to be made. Questions like ‘are the doorways wide enough’ and ‘is the floor suitable for mobility’ may need to be answered. You can find a full checklist here that covers everything to look for from ramps and slopes, parking, entryways and halls, bathrooms, bedrooms, and more. If you need to make modifications in your new home, hire professionals with accessibility improvement experience who can complete the work successfully.
· Make healthcare arrangements. If you’re relocating out of the area, ask your doctors for referrals to new health care specialists, based on your treatment needs, and check if any of the specialist health services you currently receive can be transferred. You may want to check with your insurance providers and other organizations to make sure you can retain the same disability services once relocated. You’ll want to make these arrangements a few months in advance so that if you are in need of health care soon after arriving, you’ll know where to go and any new providers will have your health history information on file. It also is very important for a disabled or special needs person to have their medical records in a safe and easily reachable place at all times. If possible, they should keep all the records with them during the move so you’re sure that they don’t get misplaced.
· Create a sense of stability. During the move, pack the personal belongings of those with special needs last and then unpack them first in your new home. You will want to create a space in the new home where they will feel safe and comfortable as soon as possible. Also, help them to maintain as normal of a daily routine as possible during the transition.
· Consider safety and security on moving day. Arrange for help if needed for your loved one with a disability or special needs. Ask a trusted neighbor, grandparent, or loved one to care for them on moving day or at least part of the day.
· Be prepared for the emotions. You can eliminate some negative emotions by making sure the person you’re caring for gets a fair amount of control over as many aspects of the move as is reasonable. Also, engage in regular talks about current feelings and fears of what may be to come. Always be mindful of how you assist the person with a disability or those who have special needs during the move. They may need a lot of help and support, but they are usually the expert on exactly what they need.
Moving with a disability or special needs requires the same planning and preparation as any other move. But you do need to take a little extra care to make sure they are comfortable before, during, and after the move. The most important thing to focus on bringing to the new home is their physical and emotional health!