Moving With Children With Disabilities: Tips and Advice for Easing Transitions

, Feb 21, 2022

A smiling young child resting their head on their arms over the edge of a moving box.

Excitement and anticipation are a couple of common feelings new homeowners might experience after finalizing the purchase of their dream home. For some, that could be a lakeside home with a view. For those who have children with a disability, it may be a more accessible and accommodating home.

Throughout the moving process, you might begin to feel disorganized or short on time. It’s not uncommon to feel this way, and there are many resources available, like moving companies or assistance from your local real estate office.

However, there aren’t as many resources available for those moving with a child with a disability. Common challenges parents in this position may face include:

  • Frequently loading and unloading medical supplies like oxygen tanks, wheelchairs, and feeding tubes;
  • The inability to find accessible parking when loading and unloading;
  • The possibility of exposing your child to sensory overload.

Throughout the rest of this article, you will find helpful tips intended to help those moving with children with disabilities — everything from what to consider before the move and how to settle in once it’s complete.

Preparing for the Move

Each step of the moving process requires participation, communication, and organization from all parties involved, starting before the move. Aside from locating the basic amenities that you and your child will need throughout the move (like medical supplies, snacks, water, and entertainment), you should also take a moment to create a rough timeline of when you’d like things accomplished. Remember, the more organized you can be during the move, the better.

Let’s take a look at a few other tips to consider while you’re preparing to move.

Visit the Neighborhood Ahead of Time

Whether it’s lakeside or in the suburbs, by this point, you’re well aware of the location of your home but you may not have had the chance to explore the area to the fullest extent. If your schedule allows, take a moment to visit your new neighborhood before you begin to move.

In doing so you’re able to scope out the area for the most accessible routes for your child and the best routes to move your belongings. It also gives you another opportunity to familiarize yourself and the family with the area.

Additionally, you’ll be able to locate the nearest businesses, parks, shopping centers, bodies of water, restaurants, surrounding neighborhoods, and other things to do with every visit. Contact your realtor or visit their blog to get a better idea of the best things to do in your new area.

Establish Medical Care ASAP

Establishing a new medical provider right away is important regardless of your or your child’s physical and mental abilities. It’s even more important when certain medical needs must be tended to at almost all times.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing a new medical provider:

  • Determine which doctors are “in-network”;
  • Find a doctor with expertise that meets your and your child’s health needs (both mental and physical);
  • Ask around for referrals from people you trust in the area, including your realtor;
  • Consider the location of the offices. If you have a lot of medical equipment to move, you may consider finding a location that is closer to home or that provides in-home care;
  • As you would with a new neighborhood, take the time to visit potential doctor’s offices ahead of time.

The sooner you’re able to establish medical care, the sooner you’re able to cross off that stressful item from your moving to-do list. You may even consider doing this as soon as you finalize the purchase of your new home.

Research Schools in the Area

Not only do you want to find a school that meets your expectations in terms of ratings and curriculum, but you’ll also want to find one that creates a smooth IEP/IFSP transfer process.

According to Understood, an individualized education plan (IEP) “Lays out the special education instruction, supports, and services a student needs to thrive in school.” An individualized family service plan (IFSP) is “provided if your child is found eligible for early intervention services.”

You can contact the prospective school to get information on how to set up an IEP and/or IFSP for your child.

Find Local Support Groups

A local support group can be anything from a group of parents that also care for children with disabilities or a group for your child to help form social connections. Either way, take the time to research local groups full of like-minded individuals who can help.

There are many benefits to joining a support group including but not limited to:

  • Feeling less lonely;
  • Creating social connections with people who understand what you or your child is going through.

To find a support group, you can research what it is you’re wanting support for. From there, read reviews and group descriptions to help narrow in on a group or groups that would best fit your needs.

During the Move

Creating a plan for the move ahead of time is helpful, however, there is a chance it may not be followed. Try not to stress anymore if you find yourself straying away from the timeline. Instead, take the below into consideration to help get you back on track during the move.

Be Strategic About the Packing Process

While it may be easier said than done, being strategic about what items you pack in which boxes and how you load them in the truck will pay off in the long run. This is because the more organized you are when packing your belongings, the easier it will be unpacking — streamlining the process right along.

Keep medical items and other necessities in a box that is easily accessible at all times. Be sure to label it in bold writing so that you and others know not to pack that box away. This can help relieve the stress of not being prepared in case of a medical emergency.

If you hired a moving company, it’s important to inform them of any boxes that may contain fragile items that could break if not handled properly. This includes everything from fine china to medical equipment. Take note of everything that is in each box to ensure it is all there when you’re unpacking, even if you don’t have movers.

Tips for Accommodating and Assisting Children With Mobility Disorders

Moving with a child who has a mobility disorder creates a different set of challenges that others aren’t faced with. Not only do you have to consider your every move, but you also have to be mindful of your child’s as well.

Here are a few examples of assistive devices, smart technologies, and home renovations to consider that may help ease the move and your adjustment to your new home:

  • Install low shelves along the bottom of the wall instead of high ones;
  • Replace traditional door knobs with levers;
  • Move light switches to a lower level;
  • Install multiple levels of railings;
  • Invest in a home smart system like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant;
  • Widen the hallways and/or remove walls if possible to create more space.

Making some of the above modifications is also a great way to increase your home’s value if you ever wish to sell.

Tips for Accommodating and Assisting Children With Developmental Disorders

The accommodations you’ll need to make to help your child with a developmental disability adjust to your new home will vary based on their needs. For instance, some children may require an instant, hands-on familiarization process. While others may need more time to slowly acclimate to their surroundings.

Regardless, some children with an intellectual disability may need more time to adjust to their surroundings. Here are a few tips to consider to help your child adjust to a change in their routine:

  • Continuously remind them of the changes as their being made by making them a part of the process, involving them when able;
  • Make them feel included in the decision-making process;
  • Refrain from having visitors until your child is fully acclimated;
  • Slowly introduce new people or things into the home;
  • Turn the move into a fun bedtime story that they can relate to;
  • Give your child a copy of the timeline so they know what to expect and when;
  • Plan for extra time for meltdowns or brain breaks.

The tips above are also useful when moving with children in general — developmental disability or not.

Remember Standard Moving Tips and Safety Protocols

The above advice is helpful but it’s also important to follow the basic moving tips and safety protocols, like:

  • Using appropriately sized boxes;
  • Packing the heavier boxes on the bottom and the lighter ones on the top;
  • Wearing proper clothing like closed-toed shoes and gloves;
  • Labeling the contents in each box;
  • Ensuring the boxes are well-taped;
  • Leaving out the essential boxes for easy access;
  • Wrapping your breakables.

It can be easy to want to make up time and move at a faster rate when you’re moving. However, this isn’t always the safest route. Always be sure to follow basic moving protocols to ensure the safety of you, your family, and your belongings.

After the Move

Now that the move is complete, it’s time to take the next steps towards making your house a home. Listed below are tips to consider after the move.

Adjusting Your Child to the Area

By this point, you’ve probably explored the neighborhood a time or two yourself but now it’s time to venture out as a family. Knowing that new areas can be overwhelming for your child can deter you from wanting to introduce them to new things.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that how they’re feeling in that moment isn’t always going to be how they feel.

When helping your kids adjust to your new home and area you should:

  • Try and establish a new daily routine right away, keeping the basic activities at the same time you did at the old house. For example, if you ate dinner at 6 o’clock every night at your old house, try and eat at 6 o’clock every night in the new house;
  • Explore your new community together;
  • Help them claim their space and make it special;
  • Encourage them to get involved in extracurriculars;
  • Familiarize them with their new teacher and school;
  • Let them help you set up their new room in whatever way they’re able;
  • Introduce them to your neighbors to help create familiar faces.

Remember, like with most things new, it’ll take time before they feel more at home.

Settling Into Your New Home

Listed below are a few additional things to consider to help you settle into the place you now call home:

  • Update your records with your new address;
  • Store important documents in a hidden, safe location;
  • Help adjust your pets to your new home as well;
  • Review homeowners association (HOA) rules (if any).

Most importantly, take a moment to relax as a family and embrace this new beginning together. Buying and moving into a new home is stressful. As long as you have the right people beside you  and trust in your process, it will be rewarding in the end.

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