Living with autism is challenging enough as it is. But facing life’s inevitable disruptions can make it even more difficult. Moving house can be a particularly stressful experience. It means breaking with routine and the comfort of one’s old life and starting anew, with all of its uncertainties.
If you are autistic or live with someone who is, you’ll want to read this post. Here we explain how to talk to somebody with autism about moving house and the effects that it will likely have.
Talk About Why You Need To Move
Autistic people like routines. It is a way of controlling their circumstances. Plus, it feels good. It makes you feel more relaxed about your life.
Moving, however, puts a spanner in the works. All of a sudden, routines have to change. And that can be a difficult transition.
Therefore, understanding why the move is necessary is an integral part of the process for an autistic person. You need to explain the precise reasons why the move is essential. If you don’t, it won’t make sense, and it will feel pointless to the autistic person. Remember, the reasons might not be evident to somebody on the spectrum.
Start by talking about the problems with the existing house and explain how they negatively affect the autistic person’s life at the moment. Get them thinking about moving and how there are other houses out there that could better meet their accommodation requirements.
Then, after that, ask them what they think about new houses. Show them around and make them part of the process. Get them on board by making casual suggestions. These include “you could make delicious food in this kitchen” or “imagine sleeping in this bedroom. It’s much bigger than yours, isn’t it?” You could also show them the big garden. You get the picture.
After that, explain to the autistic person why you’re moving. Perhaps you don’t have enough space. Maybe you need to be closer to work. Perhaps your existing home is unsafe. Whatever it is, keep repeating the ideas. Eventually, they’ll become familiar to the person with autism, and they’ll understand the necessity of moving.
Talk About The Effects Of The Move
After discussing the move itself, you’ll need to talk about some of the effects that they can expect from it. They need to understand that things will be very different once you move to the new property.
Try to take account of all the different factors that might make a difference in their lives. For instance, you might need to talk about changes in schools, friends, and local amenities.
Don’t assume that the most significant changes will be the most difficult to discuss. For autistic people, it can be the small things that make a difference. A change in the number of buses they have to take, or no longer living next to a train line, can all become serious contention points.
Little things like changes in the shape of the doors or the fact there’s a third floor can also impact. Changes that seem subtle to most people can be game-changing for those with autism.
Talk About The Practicalities Of The Move
The act of moving home can, itself, be a traumatic and troublesome event for somebody living with autism. Where possible, therefore, you want to include the autistic person in whatever capacity you can.
Start by talking to them about your search for a new house. Sit them down in front of the best property for sale portal you can find and run through a bunch of accommodation. Ask them what they like and what they don’t. Discuss with them what they’re worried about too. Providing visual support can help them to articulate their concerns.
Next, talk about what the move will involve. Try to do this indirectly and over a long period to get them accustomed to the idea.
You will, at some point, need to broach the issue of packing everything away for the removal van. Start by getting them involved in packing boxes for your bedroom. Talk about the packaging and the process.
Then put them in charge, if they want it. Ask the autistic person to organize their bedroom and start thinking about putting things into boxes. Giving them a sense of control helps them take ownership of the move. It’s not something being done to them. Instead, it’s something over which they have direct control.
Remember, autistic people can have problems with sequencing events and understanding how time works. Therefore, you can use visual calendars showing the countdown to the move and what needs to be done by when. Calendars and diaries can help here a lot.
You can also put together all of the information you can find about your new home into a brochure. The more information you can provide, the more comfortable the autistic person will feel at the prospect of the move.
Please include things like photos, maps of its location, and a picture of the layout. Also, provide detailed descriptions of the things you know will be of interest to the autistic person in your life. If light switches are essential, take photos and give a report.
Talk About Their Role On The Day Of The Move
Moving day is stressful for even the most relaxed of people. But it can be a challenge to the autistic person.
You have a couple of options here. First, you can include them in the process if you think it will suit their personality. Some autistic people love to get involved with packing and unloading at the other end.
Second, you can get them out of the house for the day so that you can take over the process yourself. This option is better if you know that the act of packing up and moving is distressing for them. Just remember to tell them what you’re doing. Please don’t leave them in the lurch. Make it clear that they’ll be returning to a different home once they finish their daytime activities.
*this is a collaborative post