Moving is hard for everyone, but children with OCD and autism tend to struggle the most. Your child likely thrives on a routine, and moving tends to mean having to readjust to an entirely new living situation. Although your child may exhibit more symptoms during the moving process, you can use these tips to help them quickly acclimate to their new house.
Encourage Them to Help Pack
Your child with autism may be confused or upset to discover that everything they care about has been packed up. Especially if you try to do it when they are not at home. A child with OCD may also be extremely worried about the status of their belongings during the move. To help with these issues, have your child help pack their personal items. While you may handle the majority of the packing, it can be reassuring for your child to help. You can ask your child to carefully wrap breakables and organize items that go together in the same boxes.
Include Them in the Planning Process
Children with autism and OCD do best when they know what to expect. Using age-appropriate language, talk to them about some of the decisions that you make when you are working with the new home builders. For instance, you can show your child the floor plan of your new house before you move in. This will help them know where their bedroom is located. If your new home is near your old one, you could take your children there as it is being built. This way they can see the process with their own eyes.
Make Their Bedroom an Oasis
Moving to a new house usually creates at least a few days of chaos before everyone settles in. During this time, your child can use their room as a place to retreat to when they feel stressed. Plan to set up your child’s room first. They’ll be able to regulate their behavior better, when they are surrounded by familiar furniture and toys.
Involve Them with Setting Up the Rest of the House
Your child also needs to feel comfortable in the rest of the house before they can successfully adjust, and they may have a sense of ownership over certain shared items such as their video game systems.
Give your child simple tasks that help them feel more in control over how things are set up. For instance, an older child might want to organize their video games in the living room. Or a younger child may want to designate a quiet space, where they can play with their toys.
Thinking about your child’s ability to adjust to a new environment is essential during your move. Although you may need to practice a bit more patience during stressful moments, you can keep them to a minimum by simply planning ways to prevent meltdowns. By talking to your child about your plans and getting them involved in each part of the move, you can help them learn to love their new home.
There are many challenges to raising children. This is especially true for children who are on the autistic spectrum, especially during the early years when they are still learning how to cope with sensory over-stimulation. However, this doesn’t mean that the family has to miss out on your favorite activities, even if those activities take place outdoors. While family outings such as a camping trip may take some extra effort and planning, it can be done in such a way that the entire family can enjoy the outdoors together.
Predictability is Key
It is very important to talk with your child well ahead of the time that you will be going on your camping trip. Autistic children need routine and can become agitated when their routine is disrupted. By talking with your child ahead of time and having them help with some of the planning, they will be more mentally and emotionally prepared to enjoy the trip. The uncertainty is often what overwhelms them in a new situation. They thrive on predictability and it is essential that they are well aware of an upcoming change to their schedule so that they aren’t caught off guard and overwhelmed.
Make a Sensory Go-Bag
Picking out a special backpack that is specifically for your child is vital. You will want to fill the bag with some of your child’s creature comforts of home that can give them a feeling of stability and promote a safe feeling for them. This can include smooth rocks, fidget toys, a favorite stuffed animal, or other favorite objects that they can carry with them. You will also want to include items that can help them to quiet the outside world during periods of over stimulation. These may include items such as sunglasses, noise canceling earmuffs, an MP3 player with headphones, a lap-pad or weighted blanket, and or even favorite coats or jackets. Don’t forget to bring this backpack with you when hiking or trips away from the campsite.
Create a Space for Sensory Time-Outs
A child that has autism needs to have space where they can regroup when they are experiencing sensory overload. Not having a space that is quiet and secure during times of over-stimulation can lead to an agitated state of being and even a meltdown. While this may seem like a task that is difficult to do while camping outdoors, it is not impossible. Camper trailers are an ideal way to offer your child that needed space during times of anxiety. While a tent may block out the visual stimuli, a camper can provide them with the benefit of quiet and complete isolation from the bugs and smells outside during times of stress. Let your child set up their own space in the camper with blankets and other things to help them remove themselves physically from the stimulus outside, and even just the knowledge that the space is there for them can help them face extended periods of high stimulus for longer.
Consider the Location
When going camping, you can make it easier for your child to enjoy the trip by choosing the right type of location. Avoid places that receive heavy traffic as a tourist location, as the isolation from society can work in your child’s favor when preventing anxiety. You can also look online at ratings to know if an area is heavy with mosquitoes or other insects that can aggravate your child’s senses and find places with fast-moving rivers for calming background noise. Another important thing to consider is to have a campfire ready site, whether you are cooking outdoors or not. The flickering flames of a campfire can provide a natural form of focus and promote a relaxed state in a child who is experiencing sensory overload.
With the proper planning, both you and your child can enjoy your time together camping outdoors. You know your child better than anyone else. Applying your knowledge with the steps listed above can go a long way with your child when making the transition of home routine to camping routine.
I am fortunate enough to be a Mum to two beautiful children who just happen to be on the Autism spectrum. My daughter, O, is nine and my son, L, is 5. To my husband and myself, and to others who have come to know them, they are the most caring wonderful children who are totally inclusive of other children. And yet, some children struggle to be inclusive of O and L because they don’t understand why O and L do the things that they do.
Long before we knew that O was on the spectrum she had an amazing group of culturally diverse friends. I can recall one particular afternoon when I collected her from day care and I asked her who she had played with that day. At the ripe old age of 3 years, she replied with “oh I played with my black friend!”
At the time we lived in a city that was quite racist and all I could think of was what, you can’t say that, what are people going to think that I am teaching you?
When I pressed further with O as to why she said “black friend,” O replied “well, she’s my friend and her skin is black.” This was the start of her literalness showing. She wasn’t being racist, she was simply stating a fact. I, on the other hand, was horrified. I also had to go back into the centre to find out her new friends name!
I grew up in a very culturally diverse community. Throughout school I could count the number of Caucasian students in my classes on two hands. The cultural diverse out-numbered the Caucasian by a huge number. And yet here I was explaining to my then three year old daughter what she should and shouldn’t say and why.
A few weeks after this conversation, I was in a government office with my daughter along with a lot of other people from young families through to elderly people. We’d being waiting in the queue for some time and during that time my daughter had started playing with a young Sudanese boy – neither of them understood each other as clearly English was not his first language. But they were having a blast and that is all that matters. At one point, an elderly person turned to me and said out loud “you’re not going to let your child play with THAT child are you?” This elderly individual clearly had little tolerance for other cultures. I responded with “I sure am, and they’re having fun” before turning away.
Again I was horrified, but not by anything that my daughter was doing. In fact I was incredibly proud of my daughter, for at the age of three she didn’t see differences in others as a bad thing. She saw differences in others as an opportunity to learn more about others and she still has this view.
We’re now at the point in our autism journey that the exclusion of O and L by others is becoming an issue. However the exclusion is not from children but by adults.
When we mention that both O and L are on the autism spectrum we receive comments of “oh I’m so sorry,” or “oh so they aren’t capable of achieving anything?” or “I guess they’re like Rain Man?” or “they don’t look autistic” or “I guess you want a cure” and many others. The responses really show a lack of understanding from the general community about what autism is.
There are numerous celebrations throughout the year in which we celebrate culturally diverse communities and yet society still struggles with the idea of being inclusive of those with differences that aren’t as obvious.
Autism is considered a hidden disability and as such society struggles with the idea that my children look “normal,” whatever that may be, and yet they behave differently at times. O struggles with loud noises and will wear block out ear protectors to block out the background noise so that she can concentrate. L struggles with busy places and will often end up in meltdown down mode due to the overload of sensory input. The number of times that I have been told “stop your children from being naughty” or have had other parents tell their children that they don’t want their children to play with my naughty children is beyond the joke.
So how we do we raise children who are inclusive of others when their parents are not inclusive of those with differences?
Worldwide the month of April is considered to be the month in which to spread Autism awareness and acceptance.
What is Autism Awareness?
So what is Autism awareness? It is about raising the community’s awareness of the needs and accomplishments of both children and adults who are on the autism spectrum. Autism awareness is about educating the community that there are many different ways in which autism can present.
Autism is better known as “Autism Spectrum Disorder” for a reason and it is truly a spectrum. Autism isn’t just Rain Man or an individual sitting in the corner of a room rocking back and forth. Autism is both of those ideas and everything in between. I can see the spectrum myself in my two children. There is no one look to Autism.
No, I’ll take that back, Autism does have a look.
Autism looks like a child with red curly hair and bright blue eyes that light up when he’s engaging in his most favourite past time – anything to do with superheroes.
Autism also looks like a child with strawberry blonde hair that goes super frizzy when the air is humid and whose eyes change from the brightest of blue to grey when she is confused, sad or anxious.
Autism looks like a child who excels academically but struggles socially and emotionally. Autism looks like a child who loves to read The Complete Works of Shakespeare for fun!
Autism looks like one child who struggles with her gross motor skills and yet her fine motor skills are on par with her peers. Autism also looks like another child who excels in anything to do with gross motor movements but his fine motor skills are below average.
Autism awareness is being aware of this fact, that there is no one look to Autism. Autism can and does look like anything.
When we raise the level of Autism awareness in the community, we can then raise the level of Autism acceptance. And in the long term Autism acceptance means the inclusion of individuals in their communities.
Deep down, I have the belief that we all just want to be accepted for who we are. We all have things about us that are unique, different, possibly annoying to those that have befriended us. We all have different perspectives about the world around us. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. And these differences should be accepted.
Individuals with autism are no different. They just want to be accepted for who they are, stims and all.
Autism is just a neurological difference. It is just a natural variation of the human form in the same way that cultural diversity is a variation of the human form.
Acceptance and inclusion of any individual, autism or not, is about being respectful and listening to what they have to say about themselves as well as accepting them for who they are. Acceptance and inclusion is about celebrating individual’s achievements, acknowledging their strengths and accepting that differences are a great thing.
After all, as Dr. Temple Grandin has said “This world needs different kinds of minds to work together!”