Moving can be chaotic for any family, but it can feel downright overwhelming when you have a special needs child.
As a parent of eight children, I’ve experienced this firsthand multiple times.
We’ve lived in 14 different states, navigating the unique challenges of moving and raising children with anxiety issues, bipolar disorder, and ADHD.
I understand your concerns and how difficult it can be to ensure the well-being of your special needs child in a new environment.
With proper planning and extra care, moving can be a smooth and positive experience for everyone involved.
In this ultimate parent’s guide to moving with a special needs child, I’ll walk you through the essential steps to make your move as stress-free as possible.
I’ll provide practical tips and resources from my experiences to help you feel confident and well-prepared.
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What to Do Before Moving Day
#1 Research and Planning
Embarking on a move with a special needs child involves thoughtful preparation to ensure a smooth transition for your whole family. Researching and planning can help you create a supportive environment that meets your child’s unique needs and your own.
This first section will cover the steps before your move, from finding a home to identifying local resources and school options.
Let’s dive in and set the stage for a successful relocation.
– Find your new house
Start by researching neighborhoods that are safe, accessible, and have appropriate accommodations for your special needs child. Here are 7 tools to look at neighborhoods.
Look for a home that meets your child’s specific requirements, such as wheelchair access or sensory-friendly spaces.
Consider proximity to medical facilities, therapists, and other essential services.
– Identify local resources and support groups
Before you move, search for local resources and support groups that cater to families with special needs children. Then, connect with them online or by phone to gather information and recommendations.
These groups can provide valuable insights and support as you navigate your new community.
Are you in or Special Needs Parenting group on Facebook?
– Consider school options and special education programs
Research the schools in your new area, paying close attention to their special education programs and resources.
Visit potential schools, if possible, and schedule meetings with teachers, administrators, and therapists to discuss your child’s needs.
Ensure you understand the school’s policies and procedures for accommodating special needs students.
If your child has an IEP, check out this blog, Make Moving With An IEP Less Scary, for even more tips.
– Make a moving timeline and checklist
Develop a timeline for your move, breaking down tasks into manageable steps. Then, create a comprehensive checklist to ensure you get all the crucial details.
This list should include everything from gathering important documents to packing essentials.
A clear plan can help reduce stress and make the transition smoother for your entire family.
Get this Ultimate Moving Planner to streamline the whole moving process.
#2 Preparing Your Child
Helping your special needs child feel comfortable and secure during moving is essential for a successful transition.
Clear communication, maintaining routines, and involving them in the process can significantly affect how they perceive and adjust to the move.
In this section, we’ll discuss strategies to prepare your child for the upcoming changes and ensure they feel supported every step of the way.
– Family Communication
Start by discussing the upcoming move with your child in a way they can understand. Explain the reasons for the move and how it will affect the family.
Address any concerns or questions they might have, and reassure them that you’ll be there to support them throughout the process.
If possible, take your child to visit your new home. If that’s not feasible, take photos you can share with your child to generate excitement about that big backyard or extra bathrooms.
– Maintain routines and consistency
Consistency is essential for special needs children, as it helps them feel secure and comfortable. Try to maintain your child’s daily routines, such as mealtimes, bedtimes, and therapy sessions, even during the moving preparations.
This will help ease the transition to the new environment. Also, check out this blog for even more tips: How to Help Your Special Needs Child Adjust to Change.
– Create a visual schedule or social story
Visual aids, such as a schedule or social story, can help your child better understand and prepare for the move.
Create a step-by-step visual representation of the moving process, highlighting important milestones and events. This can help alleviate anxiety and give your child a sense of control over the situation.
Check out these two blogs specifically on creating social stories:
– Encourage involvement in packing and planning
Involve your child in the packing and planning process to the extent they’re comfortable with.
This could include packing their belongings, selecting items to bring, or making decisions about their new room.
Engaging your child in the moving process can help them feel more connected and invested in the transition.
#3 Organizing Your Move
A well-organized move is essential to reducing stress and ensuring a smooth transition for the whole family. By taking care of crucial details and preparing for potential challenges, you can create an environment that supports your child’s unique needs.
This section will discuss practical tips for organizing your move, from gathering important documents to setting up a safe space in your new home.
Let’s explore how to make the moving process seamless from start to finish.
– Gather important documents and records
Compile all essential documents for your child’s medical history, educational records, and therapy reports.
Keep these documents organized and easily accessible during the move. I carried a little metal (fireproof) box for all our essential travel documents.
This information will simplify registering for new schools and medical services.
– Hire a moving company experienced with special needs families
When selecting a moving company, look for one with experience working with families with special needs and children.
If you don’t have this option, try talking with the movers before they arrive at the house.
They’ll be more sensitive to your child’s unique requirements and can provide valuable assistance in making a move as smooth as possible.
For half of our moves, the whole moving process was on us. My husband’s employer chose the moving company for the other half of our moves since they paid for it.
– Pack each child their own “carry-on” bag of essentials
As you pack your belongings, set aside a duffle bag or suitcase for each child to keep their essential items, favorite toys, and comfort objects.
This might include a favorite blanket, travel activities, or sensory tools. These readily available items can help your child feel more at ease during the transition.
– Set up a safe and comfortable space in your new home
There will be a lot of chaos at first, with boxes everywhere. This can lead to anxiety. Plan to create a safe and comfortable space for your child in your new home.
This could involve setting up their bedroom or a designated sensory area. Familiarize yourself with the layout of your new home to identify any potential hazards and make necessary adjustments before your child arrives.
#4 Practical Tips for a Stress-Free Move
In this section, we’ll discuss practical tips to help you stay organized and reduce the stress associated with moving, from packing boxes by room to compiling a list of utility bills and subscriptions.
Let’s explore how to confidently approach the move and create a smoother transition for your special needs child and the entire family.
– Pack boxes by room and label them clearly
As you pack your belongings, organize the boxes by room to make unpacking more manageable. Clearly label each box with the room it belongs to and its key contents so you know exactly where it goes in your new home.
You may even want to keep an inventory list by room with numbers on the boxes. This comes in handy when looking for things like a can opener or television remotes.
This will help you stay organized during the move and ensure that everything arrives safely at your new home.
– Compile a list of utility bills and subscriptions
List all utility bills and subscriptions requiring address changes or transferring to your new location. This will help ensure a smooth transition of services and minimize any disruptions.
– Declutter before packing
Use the moving process to declutter and get rid of items you no longer need. This can make the packing and moving process more manageable and reduce the amount of stuff you need to transport.
I usually keep three collection containers going. One for giving away, one for packing right now, and one for returning to the room it belongs to so it is packed there.
Get more tips on decluttering and this Ultimate Declutter Your Home Checklist.
– Notify important contacts of your move
Inform friends, family members, your child’s school, and other relevant contacts about your upcoming move and provide them with your new address.
This will ensure they can reach you and your family during and after the transition.
#1 Travel Arrangements
The actual moving day can be a source of stress and anxiety for you and your special needs child. Ensuring their comfort and well-being during the journey is crucial for a successful relocation.
In this section, we’ll discuss the importance of selecting an appropriate mode of transportation, preparing essential supplies, and being flexible to accommodate your child’s needs.
– Consider the most comfortable mode of transportation
Evaluate the various transportation options available and choose the one that best suits your child’s needs and comfort level.
Whether by car, train, or plane, consider factors such as travel time, accessibility, and the availability of support services during the journey.
If you are having your vehicle transported, get all the details on pickup and drop-off. Sometimes car haulers can arrive in as little as two days and beat you there. Unfortunately, that means they will need someone else to meet them or put your vehicle in storage for you to pay an additional fee to get it out.
Other times you could be waiting a week or two for your vehicle to arrive. We’ve had both happen to us!
– Ensure you have the necessary medications and supplies
Prepare a travel kit containing all essential medications, supplies, and equipment your child may need while traveling.
This might include prescriptions, sensory tools, or assistive devices. Having these items readily available can help ensure a smooth and comfortable journey.
You may even want to pick a pharmacy ahead of time and have their prescriptions transferred so there will not be any delays.
– Schedule breaks and allow for flexibility
Plan for breaks during your trip, allowing your child to rest, stretch, or use the restroom.
Be prepared to adjust your travel plans, if necessary, to accommodate any unexpected challenges or changes in your child’s needs. Flexibility and patience are vital to making the moving process as stress-free as possible.
#2 Providing Support and Comfort
Moving day can be particularly challenging for your special needs child, who may feel overwhelmed by the changes around them. Your support and understanding are crucial in helping them navigate this transition.
This section will discuss ways to provide comfort and reassurance during the move, maintain consistency in their routines, and encourage open communication about their feelings.
Let’s explore how to make your child’s moving day as emotionally supportive as possible.
– Keep routines as consistent as possible
Even on moving days, try to maintain your child’s routines as much as possible. This can help create a sense of stability and familiarity in an otherwise uncertain situation.
Stick to regular mealtimes, bedtimes, and other familiar routines to provide comfort and predictability.
– Encourage communication about their feelings
Create an open and supportive atmosphere where your child feels comfortable discussing their emotions and concerns.
Encourage them to share their feelings about the move and validate their experiences. Offer emotional support and reassurance to your child during the moving process.
Let them know you understand their feelings and concerns, and remind them that you’re there to help them adjust.
Your presence and understanding can significantly affect how they cope with the changes.
By fostering open communication, you can address any issues promptly and help your child feel more secure during the transition.
– Practice self-care for yourself and your child
Remember to take care of your physical and emotional well-being, as this will enable you to support your child better during the move.
Ensure you and your child eat well, get enough sleep, and take breaks when needed.
– Set realistic expectations
Understand that moving can be a challenging experience for everyone, especially for a special needs child.
Set realistic expectations for how smoothly the move will go and prepare yourself for potential setbacks or plan changes.
#3 Practical Tips for a Smoother Move
The moving day can be hectic and challenging, especially for families with special needs children.
This section will discuss valuable tips for organizing your move, from designating a specific area for essential items to arranging childcare assistance.
Let’s explore how to make moving day as efficient and stress-free as possible for your entire family.
– Designate a specific area for items not going on the truck
Choose a specific place in your home to keep all the items that will travel with you separately from those going on the moving truck.
This may include that metal box with important documents, medications, comfort items, and any other essentials your child may need during the transition.
Some moving companies provide caution tape to go over anything you don’t want them to load. But I have found it much easier if I had everything collected together.
– Arrange for help
Organize for a babysitter, family member, or close friend to help care for your child while the movers (or you) are loading the moving truck.
This can help keep your child calm and engaged, away from the chaos and stress of moving day activities.
– Plan for playtime
Give your child markers or crayons and let them turn a cardboard box into a puppet theater or play oven.
Have “moving day” only video games downloaded to devices to keep them occupied.
Take a break to walk around the block or toss a Frisbee in the backyard.
Print out this fun creative writing activity to keep them busy.
– Pack and mark “unload first” boxes
Pack boxes with essential items you’ll need during the first few days at your new home. This may include things like:
- Cooking utensils
- Remote controls
- Light bulbs
Mark those boxes containing essential items or items that you should unpack first. This will make it easier for you and the movers to know which boxes require immediate attention upon arrival at your new home.
Having these items readily accessible will make the initial days in your new home easier and stress-free.
– Keep essential contact information handy
Have a list of essential contact information readily available, including your moving company, new school, and medical providers.
This will make it easier to communicate and address any issues that may arise during the move.
– Prepare an emergency kit for the trip
If you are traveling by car, especially long distance, you need to pack an emergency kit for the trip. This kit should contain items like
- First-aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Phone charger
- Ice packs
Having these items readily accessible can provide peace of mind and help prepare for any unexpected situations during the move.
– Eat a fun dinner
Order your family’s favorite takeout meal or throw together something easy like sandwiches. Spread out a picnic blanket, and take a picture.
After the Move
#1 Settling into Your New Home
The period following a move can be critical for your special needs child as they adjust to their new environment. Ensuring a smooth and comfortable transition is essential to helping them feel secure and confident in their new home.
This section will discuss strategies for settling into your new home, from unpacking your child’s space first to maintaining familiar routines and exploring your new surroundings together.
Let’s delve into the steps to make your child’s post-move adjustment as seamless as possible.
– Unpack and arrange your child’s space first
Begin by unpacking and organizing your child’s bedroom or designated space as soon as you arrive at your new home.
Creating a familiar and comfortable environment can help your child feel more at ease and secure in their new surroundings.
– Maintain familiar routines and schedules
Continue following your child’s routines and schedules even after the move. This consistency will help them adjust quickly to their new environment and provide stability during the transition.
– Explore your new surroundings together
Take the time to explore your new neighborhood and community with your child. Visit local parks, schools, and other places of interest to help them become familiar with their new surroundings.
This can also be an opportunity to connect with other families and resources in the area, further supporting your child’s adjustment to their new home.
#2 Building a Support Network
Creating a strong support network is crucial for you and your special needs child as you adjust to life in a new community.
By connecting with local resources, establishing friendships, and being actively involved in your child’s education, you can build a foundation of support that will benefit your family in the long run.
This section will discuss ways to build a support network to help your child thrive in their new environment and foster a sense of belonging for your entire family.
– Connect with local resources and support groups
Research and reach out to local resources, such as therapy centers, support groups, and organizations that cater to special needs families.
These connections can provide valuable information, guidance, and emotional support as you settle into your new community.
– Meet your neighbors and establish friendships
Take the initiative to introduce yourself and your family to your new neighbors. Establishing friendships and connections within your neighborhood can help create a supportive environment for your child and make your family feel more welcome in your new home.
– Attend school meetings and advocate for your child’s needs
Participate actively in your child’s education by attending school meetings, parent-teacher conferences, and relevant special education events.
Communicate with teachers and school staff to ensure your child’s needs are met and advocate for any necessary accommodations or services.
Building a solid relationship with your child’s school is essential in creating a supportive educational environment. Check out these additional tips: How to Have the Best Parent Teacher Relationship this Year.
#3 Monitoring and Adjusting
Adjusting to a new home and community can be an ongoing process for your special needs child, and it’s essential to be attentive to their needs during this transition period.
This section will discuss the importance of monitoring your child’s well-being, addressing concerns promptly, and celebrating their achievements.
Let’s explore how to support your child as they adapt to their new environment and ensure their continued growth and success.
– Observe your child’s behavior and well-being
Keep a close eye on your child’s behavior, emotional state, and overall well-being after the move.
This will help you identify potential issues or signs of distress early on, allowing you to address them promptly and effectively.
– Address any concerns or challenges promptly
If you notice any concerns or challenges your child may face, address them immediately.
This may involve seeking professional guidance, adjusting their routines or environment, or advocating for additional support at school.
You should check out this blog for additional tips: How to Best Advocate For Your Child in Special Education.
– Celebrate successes and milestones together
Acknowledge and celebrate your child’s successes and milestones as they adjust to their new home and surroundings.
Sharing these moments can boost your child’s self-esteem and help reinforce their sense of accomplishment during this transition period.
Final Tips and Resources
Moving with a special needs child can be a challenging experience. Still, it can be a positive and rewarding journey for your entire family with thorough preparation, a strong support network, and flexibility.
Remember to research and plan, involve your child in the moving process, and build a supportive environment both during and after the move.
Don’t hesitate to reach out for help when needed, as it can make a significant difference in managing the challenges that may arise.
Above all, be patient and understanding, as adjusting to a new home and community takes time for you and your child. However, with persistence, empathy, and a commitment to your child’s well-being, you can turn this transition into an opportunity for growth and success for your family.
Additional Resources to Check Out Next
- Academic Regression in School What You Need to Know as a Parent
- How to Help Your Special Needs Child Make Friends and Keep Them
- The Ultimate Guide to a Better Bedtime Routine for Kids
- Ultimate Moving Planner (over 50 sheets) to make planning a move so much easier!
Do you have a child that needs one-on-one special education tutoring? It can be done from anywhere! Our special education experts conduct their sessions online! Get them started with a free consultation!