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By: Cristina Stanger, Self-Advocacy Liaison
*This article was originally published in the Family Pulse Newsletter November 2022*
My August Family Pulse article focused on giving myself grace amidst change. A lot of the change I was experiencing stemmed from moving house, something I had not done on a large scale before. And while every neurodivergent person is different, I thought I would share my experiences, what worked well and what didn’t, to give you information to consider if you need to move, or need to support a loved one through the moving process.
Preparing to say goodbye and hello:
As I read through articles about how to prepare children for a move, I quickly realised that many of the recommendations would benefit my own transition period as well. My family said goodbye and thank you to our old house, going from room to room, writing down memories as we went. We visited parks and places near our new house to build our comfort level with the new neighbourhood. My family and I did a collaborative art project together during our first days in the new house, creating something we could hang on the wall to commemorate our family’s arrival. Something I would have liked to manage better was the social element, saying goodbye to old neighbours and hello to the new ones; these gestures of closure or introduction didn’t come to fruition in the way I would have liked, mostly because they occurred to me as an afterthought and I didn’t prepare myself enough in advance for these interpersonal tasks. Making the new space work for us There is no way around it, moving is a process, a process which requires a good deal of effort and organisation. My family decided in advance to get help with the organisational element in our new home, focusing on our kitchen and basement. By ensuring things were unpacked, sorted and given a ‘home’ early on by someone without an emotional attachment, it significantly reduced the environmental chaos, which in turn significantly reduced my sensory overwhelm. The decluttering and decision making element involved with the organisation was draining and required some recovery time, but was well worth it in the end. While it took some back and forth within my internal dialogue, I decided to arrange our furniture to suit my family’s needs, rather than meet conventional norms. For example, we placed large shelving units in my dining room for storage, as we use that space to craft or play games as opposed to entertaining. Our space, our own way to use it.
Managing the emotional elements:
I knew moving would be hard as it is a big change, but I underestimated the sheer amount of stress involved (buying, selling, planning, etc.). The element of stress made life more challenging because stress impacts my neurodivergent symptoms, and my ability to deal with aspects of dayto-day life was reduced. This is something I failed to anticipate, though it seems an obvious issue in hindsight. Once I came to this realisation, I had to be deliberate in building in extra downtime into my schedule to allow for recovery. Grace was involved, once again, as I reduced my goals for each day and cut myself more slack for parenting missteps. We discovered that different family members experienced different emotions at different times during the moving process; which again, sounds obvious, but didn’t occur to me as something to prepare for. Being gentle with each other and openly communicating went a long way in this regard. I had a hard time navigating the social niceties that came with news of moving. Most people would talk about how exciting it all was, but these small-talk conversations left little room to express how I was really feeling (worried about change, overwhelmed with stress, etc). I often had to gloss over all my true emotions, which was very draining. So instead I talked with trusted sources about these feelings, which is a strategy I had learned already, but that I had to remind myself to use.
Other important things I learned:
Adjustments to one’s muscle memory are required when living in a new space. The recalibration of various movements and actions can be exhausting! Take some downtime and remember this process can take several weeks (approximately 8 in my case). You might discover new quirks in your home that can be disappointing at first. However, over time the reasons you picked your living space will begin to shine through again. It takes a while for a house to feel like it’s really yours. Slowly, you will develop new cleaning routines and figure out where to put seasonal decor to help make your new space feel more like your home. Don’t forget to modify your travel planning when leaving your house for the day, including the length of transit time in addition to the route itself.
I share these experiences not to scare or deter anyone from moving, but to give you things to think about —because the more I know what I might need to expect, the easier my transitions are as I get fewer surprises and I can prepare for anticipated challenges. If you are going to be moving, I wish you the best and please don’t worry if you, like me, do not feel excited. We all process things differently, and you will adjust in time.