Relocating With An Autism Family

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA

Founding Editor,

Moving is always stressful.  Take it from me, I know. I’ve moved across the country and back and lived in four different cities.  Make that five — we just bought a house in another town on the outskirts of Dallas.  Things always get lost or broken.  Equipment of some sort is usually rented, be it a U-Haul trailer or carpet cleaning machine.  And, the dreaded changing of address and everything that goes along with it, such as utilities, updating credit card information, and on and on.

However, if you are an autism family, the stressors of moving can be further amplified.  Luckily, the National Autism Network provides a few tips to ensure your move goes smoothly, some of which will be summarized below.

  1. The first set of tips relate to the changed routine that goes along with a new house.  One way to help prepare is by focusing on the smaller changes, like a door that looks different, light switches in different places, and new noises that didn’t occur in the old house.  Another way is to gradually expose your child to the new environment by taking him/her along when looking for houses and creating social stories to practice new situations likely encountered in the new location.
  2. Other tips relate to your child’s new Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  A new school comes with a new set of professionals (and peers) interacting with your child, and it is up to you to gather as much information as possible about the different schools in your new area.  The Network noted that the new school is obliged to implement your child’s previous IEP immediately, even if they should decide to change the plan.  The Network also has a HIPAA compliant Secure Private Network that enables secure file sharing of your child’s documents with relevant professionals.
  3. On the day of the move, try to keep your child busy on particular tasks that are helpful to the move.  Tasks such as packing up his/her toys or helping with labels can keep your child focused and lower stress levels.
  4. Safety factors related to the move are of upmost importance, particularly those related to wandering.  The Network recommends familiarizing the family with the new area, noting any notable hazards such as bodies of water and major roads.  You may also want to practice how to interact with strangers.
  5. Lastly, are tips tied to the larger community.  In today’s social media age, it can be beneficial, and easy, for your child to stay in contact with old friends.  However, doing so shouldn’t overshadow the importance of exploring your new community and the autism-friendly events it has to offer.

Be sure to read the full article for much more information not discussed above, and let us know your experiences relocating with a child diagnosed with autism or developmental disability.  Don’t forget to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles, and free monthly issues, directly to your inbox!

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA is a science writer, social philosopher, behavioral systems analyst, and the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which aims to connect behavioral science to the world in an engaging, non-academic way.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  His publications follow a theme of behavioral systems analysis, organizational performance, theory & philosophy, and language & cognition.  He has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward can be reached at


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