Children find it harder to cope with change. A significant change such as moving to another country can be difficult for adults too. The whole exercise is unsettling for kids and it can be unnerving for children with special needs. It is not sufficient for the transition to be well planned. The special needs of a child should be attended to throughout the entire process. Additional considerations are imperative and many standard practices may not be sufficient to ensure a child is truly taken care of. The approach has to be proactive and not reactive. In this guide about moving with special needs children, we shall discuss everything you as parents should do to have a reasonably convenient experience.
A Quintessential Checklist for Moving with Special Needs Children
You must help your child get acclimatized to the new country or city. This includes the new home, school, neighborhood and other essential facilities, such as parks and clinics. You may use visuals to help the child get familiar with the new setting. The visuals can be images and videos. It is good to have a combination of both. Video tours of a new house, the neighborhood, a school including its lunchroom and snapshots of teachers, the clinic where the child will be taken for routine consultation and checkups, the nearby park and the general places one will frequent. Children with special needs may take a little longer to adapt to a new place and the visuals during the preparatory phase will be helpful.
The preparatory phase should try to help a child get pleasantly excited about moving. If there is anything daunting or overwhelming about the transition, then children with special needs will experience more problems than anticipated. This is why parents should continue with their present routine. Nothing should be altered unless it is absolutely unavoidable. Mealtimes, bedtimes, family getting together for some fun, the regular activities of a child and everything else should be just the way it has been for years. Any special planning that must happen should be done without altering the existing routine.
It is necessary for parents to choose a school, a doctor and other required facilities & services beforehand. These should be done prior to the actual move. Children with special needs can have different requirements depending on their exact health condition and you cannot be reactive when you get to the new place. If you know the school you have chosen is suitable for your child, if you have the doctor on standby and other services available already before you arrive, then the whole transition can me much more convenient and it will be reassuring for the child. You may need help with transportation when you arrive. Your child may need special care after arrival, especially since you might be busy with many formalities. Moving (domestically or internationally) can be chaotic for adults and the sporadic needs of children can further complicate the process. Choosing the essentials before moving is a prerequisite.
Research is the key to ensure safe, comfortable and convenient moving with special needs children. Finding the perfect house, the right school and the best doctor cannot be an easy task. You will need to compare private and public schools. You should find out everything about relevant insurance. You must consider the possibility of a few surprises. The actual moving including packing, shipping, transportation and the last leg of the journey should also be thoroughly planned. It is not just about hiring the most reliable moving company. You must choose what should go as unaccompanied baggage, which items will be in your checked or carry-on luggage, how you will segregate the medications and essential supplies, the packing of clothes, books, and toys loved by your child along with accessories that are pivotal to the comfort of your child.
Moving with Children in a Wheelchair
Accessibility is a prerequisite when moving with children in a wheelchair. Some people move directly to a new house. Some families have to stay in hotels or spend a few days at the house of someone they know before they can move into a new house or apartment. Temporary accommodation or housing poses its own challenges. Not every facility will have convenient access for a wheelchair. Scouting is necessary to ensure every place in the transit where your family has to spend some time assures wheelchair access.
You must consider buying or renting a home that has wheelchair accessibility. If you do not get such a house or apartment, then consider the possibility of installing ramps and making alterations so the setting is wheelchair compatible. This may take some time so you should initiate the whole process well before you actually leave your present residence. It should be noted that wheelchair accessibility is not just about convenient and comfort but also safety.
Moving with Children having Emotional & Sensory Disorders
Both physical and emotional disorders require special care. Sensory or emotional disorders are slightly more challenging because of the uncertain nature of the symptoms and outbursts. Physical impairment is well understood and there is some predictability to the special needs of a child. Emotional disorders do not always have the same symptoms and hence outbursts should be handled delicately. A proactive approach is not always enough because there will be times when you must respond appropriately. Yet, you must take initiatives to plan a smooth transition.
You should try to organize the move as well as you can so you can avoid triggers that will cause emotional outbursts. Children with sensory or emotional disorders often have a meltdown when exposed to too much noise. Visual distractions can also serve as triggers. Parents should consciously ensure there isn’t too much of chaos or frenzy during the transition. If you already know the various triggers, try and avoid them entirely throughout the moving process. Make your new house sensory safe. Choose hotels wisely so the triggers can be avoided. Use items the child is familiar with to serve as the triggers of comfort. The basic objective is to protect the child from emotional distress and all kinds of stress.
Parents should try and keep children with special needs as well informed as possible. Taking a child into confidence and helping them understand the various nuances of the whole moving exercise can be effective at keeping them well guarded from sensory triggers. Parents should always remember one simple truth about children with emotional or sensory disorders. Anything that can even remotely affect the emotional state of an adult or a child will have an exponentially greater impact on a kid with a sensory disorder. The effect will actually be a trauma for such children. Planning, compassion and readiness will help parents manage meltdowns or outbursts.
Moving with Children having Non-Neurotypical Conditions
Autistic children and kids with other neurological disorders will find moving extremely unsettling and unnerving. They may experience enormous stress. It is possible the transition will be an unprecedented trauma for children with autism. Parents must ensure such children have sufficient time to understand what is happening. They must be able to realize that they are actually going to move into a new place. Every step must be taken to help a child become familiar with the new place, including the area or neighborhood, the house and the community among other facilities.
Images and videos will definitely help. Details pertaining to the moving schedule and other plans should be visually communicated so autistic children can be fairly aware of what is about to happen. Children with autism have varying needs. Every autistic child has certain tendencies and these should be taken into consideration so adequate resolutions are in place. Parents should seek help from family or friends if the child with autism is comfortable with them. The most complicated and stressful tasks can be completed when the child is under care and supervision of someone they know and have been with before.
Children with autism must not be rushed into the whole process. There should be no haste when it comes to packing their items. Their favorite items should be the last to be packed. If possible, a few of those items should be kept handy so the child can get them whenever needed. This can help prevent meltdowns. Safety should be top priority. Children with non-neurotypical disorders should not be allowed to wander. Doors should not be left open or unmanned. Packed boxes should not be stacked too high if a child has a tendency to climb. Such specific risks should be assessed and mitigated.
Find the Right School
Children with special needs must be enrolled in a school that has all the provisions to take good care of them. The school should be able to provide the necessary services and assistance whenever needed. The school should be a perfect fit for the child, from both academic and social perspectives. The Education Act 1989 – Section 8 requires public schools to ensure free and appropriate education to children with special needs, including disabilities. Despite the regulation being in place, there are limitations to what public schools can offer. This is why many parents consider private schools. Explore how a school can be of special assistance in regards to the needs or the disability of a child.
Check whether or not a school is right for the individualized education program of your child. Some schools may not be eligible and a few private schools may be un-affordable. Finding the right school is indeed a challenge so extensive research and assessment is the key. You should also prioritize transportation. Every community has a certain approach to meet the transportation requirements of children with special needs. You should choose the most convenient option if there is a choice. You should get in touch with your local school to be familiar with the policies, eligibility and procedures. Learn more about the local school district, schedule an appoint and consult with an officer prior to your moving.
Find a Suitable Doctor
You will need a doctor for your child with special needs. Just as you should choose the school before you move, you must also find a suitable doctor before you need to consult one after you move. You can seek referrals, get assistance from local groups dedicated to care for children with special needs, consult a few doctors to ascertain if they are appropriate for your child, exchange as much information as you can including the entire medical history of your child, consult with the doctor and explore possibilities of coordinated care if required. An individualized program may be necessary. You may also need therapists.
Find an Appropriate Home
All the special needs of your child should be the top priority when you choose a home. Ensure accessibility, consider the emotional needs of your child, avoid sensory triggers and modify the property as required. The most common priorities are mobility issues, not just to and from the school among other places but also within the house. Navigation within the house can be a challenge for children in a wheelchair. Children with emotional or sensory disorders will also need modifications in a property. The sensitivities of the child should be taken care of while buying or renting a house.
Children with special needs will always require some additional provisions in a house. Autistic children usually require a fenced yard. There should be convenient and adequate storage for medical equipment. There may be a need for additional prepping in the kid’s room. You can consult an experienced real estate agent, share the details and explain your requirement, check out as many shortlisted homes as possible and choose the one that is closest to what you need.
Plan an Impeccable Move
You should have all the important information at your fingertips. Share the address with your doctor, the school you have chosen and other professionals whom you will require in due course of time. Get the updated records from the present school and doctor. Doctors, therapists, counselors and teachers, everyone who will be interacting with a child having special needs should be well informed and be constantly in the loop to be abreast of every important development.