I recently heard from a parent who was in the process of moving to a new city. She was very concerned about helping her son, Andre, who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), adjust to all of the upcoming changes a move entails, including a new house and a new school. I assured her that there are a number of strategies that she could use to help prepare Andre for the upcoming changes and adjust to his new home. These are the suggestions I shared with her:
Let the individual with ASD know about the change in advance. In general, people with ASD do best if they know about a change ahead of time. How far in advance that knowledge is helpful varies tremendously from person to person. If you’re moving to a new house and you are going to have to start packing, it’s probably the right time to introduce the change.
Create a social narrative about the change. You can create a video or written social narrative. This should be written at the appropriate level for the individual. For younger children or older individuals with ASD who need more significant support, the narrative may include few words and lots of pictures. For others, the narrative may read more like a newspaper article. For written narratives, use photographs whenever possible. You may find it helpful to create narratives about several different changes that will be occurring. So, you might write one about your new house, their new bedroom, the new city, the new school, and their new classroom. You can also write about “people changes,” such as having a new teacher or meeting new neighbors. If you’re moving closer to Grandma and Grandpa, you’ll want to explain that they will get to see their grandparents more often.