How to Help an Autistic Child Cope with a Move

Tara Chila
Written by Tara Chila
Updated September 9, 2015
house packed for move
A move interrupts your routine, which can cause major stress for children with autism. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

Moving your autistic child into a new home can be a hard transition.

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Autistic children succeed with routine and structure. Change, especially unexpected change, can cause stress for the child and lead to resistance. The important thing to remember is to not surprise your child with your upcoming move. Hopefully these tips will help your family have a successful move. 

Create a social story

A social story explains a scenario and the expected behavior of the child. To make a video or written story for your child about moving, include photos of family members, your current house and the new house to help your child understand how it relates directly to them. Share the story with your child twice a day starting a month before the move.

You also may want to create a social story or a plan for moving day, with step-by-step details on what to expect. 

Have a safety plan in place.

Children with autism are prone to wandering, and moving increases the likelihood of this. Plan on adding some type of alarm to your doors. This can be an alarm system or as simple as adding bells to the doors so they ring when opened. Besides adding an alarm, explain to your child where you live and show them how to get home in case they ever get lost.

Look into a kid’s GPS tracking device. 

Meet your neighbors ahead of time

If your child wanders to one of your neighbors’ homes, they should understand that your child is autistic so they know how to speak with your child and help them get home. Be sure to leave your address, name of your child and your phone number.

MORE: Tips to Make Moving with an Infant Manageable 

Assign your child a moving day task

This will keep your child involved and distracted on moving day. A great task is to have your child put stickers on all items that they want to bring to the new house.

Scan the neighborhood for safety problems

Look for safety issues, including neighbors with pools, a neighborhood park, a local pond or a nearby heavily traveled highway. Point out these areas and explain to your child your safety concerns. And don’t forget to talk to them about the dangers of strangers.

Reduce your child’s workload

Any child, autistic or not, will be overwhelmed, anxious and maybe even sad about moving. These feelings are even more prominent in autistic children. Scale back the demands and expectations you place on them. They may need a week off from chores, since they’ll be overwhelmed with moving into a new house, starting a new school, signing up for sports and meeting the new neighborhood kids.

Have fun

Take a break from unpacking and organizing and play with your child or take them out for ice cream. Show your child the positive side of your move and be there for them. 

RELATED: 8 Ways to Make Moving with Kids Easier

Each child’s symptoms are as different as their personalities, so take these tips with a grain of salt and mold them to work for your child. The most important thing to do is be there for your child and try to understand and anticipate just how hard this adjustment will be for them.

As of Sept. 9, 2015, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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