It’s been almost a year since I’ve posted on our Instagram account.
We decided to move. Our 1000 square foot townhouse was getting to be too small for our family. My husband couldn’t stand it anymore. My boys were sharing a room and the oldest was badly needing his own space.
So we started the process of moving. But it would prove to be no easy feat. Especially for an autism family. I’m sharing my story in hopes of helping others out there. It is extremely hard to move when you have autistic children. But it is possible. Hopefully my story will encourage you and give you ideas on making the transition smoother. It won’t be perfect. There will be bumps along the way. But you can do it!! We survived and you can too.
Anyhow, onto my story. There was a lot of prep work before we could list the house for sale. The home needed updating. Our real estate agent assured us that we would get top-dollar for our home if we made it move-in ready. So I purged as much as I could. Then the remaining items were packed and moved to a storage facility.
My little guy, who’s incredibly observant, was wondering What on earth is going on?!? I tried to explain as best as I could to him. But this home was the only one he had ever known. He had spent the first eight years of his life there. The concept of moving to a new place was foreign to him. Even though he’s nonverbal, I could see the expressions on his face and the wheels turning in his head. He was trying to process what was happening.
The day came when we had to move out for a few weeks while renovations were done. I signed up for an Airbnb down the street, just to keep us close to the school while this whole thing was happening. I wanted the keep the rest of their lives consistent as possible. It’s especially important for autism. They like their routines. So each day they’d go to school. My little guy would have his therapy sessions throughout the week. So that brought some normalcy to their lives.
The first night at the Airbnb was the worst. The little guy cried and begged to go back home. He had a total meltdown like I’ve never seen before. I explained that we couldn’t go back…yet.
After a couple hours he was mentally exhausted and went to sleep. The next day he asked to go home. I patiently explained that people were fixing the house, then we would go back. One of those FIRST, THEN explanations. One of many to come. He asked over and over. I explained over and over. He was definitely perseverating over it. And very understandable. My role was to help him understand and cope.
I then dropped them off at school and visited the townhouse. While I was there, I recorded a video on my phone. I figured if the little guy could see what they were doing, he’d have a better understanding.
It seemed to help. Of course it still didn’t stop him from asking to go back home. I kept assuring him we’d eventually go back. In the meantime he could look forward to the videos.
After a few weeks the blessed day came for us to go home. My little guy was so ecstatic.
But when he stepped into the townhouse, he could see that it was different. The walls had been painted a different color. The kitchen was remodeled. The fixtures and doorknobs had been updated. The house as he knew it was gone.
Regardless, he was still happy to be home. I could see the joy in his face.
Now I haven’t spoken about my older son’s experience. He wasn’t thrilled about moving. This was also the only home he’d ever known. He spent the first ten years of his life there. But he handled it better than the little guy. At least on the outside he did. I could see he was trying not to be overwhelmed. He would start to cry a little, but quickly caught himself. He was trying to be a big boy about it. But I knew he was feeling pain.
The next step was to list the home on the market. The bank wanted us to sell the house first BEFORE buying another home. Which stressed me out a lot. How on earth to coordinate the timing of selling and buying a home?!? It seemed so unfair.
The townhouse went on the market on a Friday. It received immediate interest and sold the first day.
We didn’t have another house lined up, so now we were faced with the prospect of becoming homeless. I couldn’t face the idea of going back to another Airbnb while we searched for a new home. I was really sick of this whole thing and wanted to be DONE! I wanted to move my stuff out of storage and have a home to nest in. But where? It was January, the middle of winter and there wasn’t a home for sale in our neighborhood. At least one in our budget.
We prayed for divine provision. While the close process began on our townhouse, we searched for a home and visited many in the area. Most of them were not a good fit. We started an offer on one but it fell through. Besides, it was important to keep our kids at the same school. I knew they were going to have an “adjustment period” in the new home. The last thing I wanted was for them to adjust to a new home AND a new school in another neighborhood. The current school also had an excellent autism program and we felt we couldn’t leave it.
I felt desperate. There had to be SOMEONE selling their home in this neighborhood. But weeks went by and nothing came up. Thankfully the buyers for our home were flexible on the close date. That bought us some time.
I then had the idea to go on Nextdoor and ask. If you’re not familiar with Nextdoor, think of it as a Facebook for neighbors. So I created a post and explained our situation. Then asked if anyone was planning to sell their home.
Bingo. One guy emailed me. He said he was planning to retire in a year, but was willing to move out sooner if we needed a home.
So I visited and fell in love with the place. It was BEAUTIFUL. We made an offer and he accepted.
So now we began the process of moving to the new place. To prepare the little guy, we started with visual storytelling. Since the house was just two streets over, we’d drive by and point out the house to him. We told him that would be our new home.
When home inspections were done, we visited the house and let him run around. He didn’t stay long but it was good to have him see the place.
Then came the day. The movers got our boxes out of storage and into the new place. The family moved in.
The little guy cried, but not as much as I expected. By this time his whole world had been turned upside down. It was almost becoming normal for him.
It took several months for him to adjust, and every now and then he would break down and cry. I hated seeing the pained look on his face, it would break my heart. I’d tell him that we’d save money and buy the old place, just so he could visit whenever he wanted. I hope to do so someday. Goals.
My oldest was sad to move but he seemed to adjust more quickly. He was happy to finally have his own room and get away from his younger brother.
My worst fear was that the little guy would run away and go back to the old place. But thankfully he hasn’t done so (yet).
As for me, I was so stressed throughout this whole process. When we got to the new home I didn’t want to look at a single box. But we worked through it and unpacked. That also helped the little guy, seeing familiar items from our old home.
He no longer asks to go back. But he recently discovered Google Maps and visits the old house through there. He punches in the address and up comes an image of the house. He also watches videos of the renovations and smiles fondly as he watches it. It’s a big achievement and I feel proud of my boys. Big changes are not easy for anyone. But he survived it and has seemed to have moved forward.
So if you are faced with a similar situation, know that can be a trial by fire! But over time everyone will eventually be OK. I definitely recommend lots of storytelling to help them understand what’s going on. Then let them work through the grieving process. Big changes are so hard on them. You might even consider going away on mini vacations, just to get them used to being in new and unfamiliar environments.
Made it this far? Congratulations! Got any questions, comments or suggestions? Please share below.