Several families have asked for ideas to help smooth the transition from home to a residential home for their young adult son or daughter with autism. Transition or change of any kind is challenging for many individuals with autism, and the families want to do what they can to help them adapt to their new home.
A strategy that has worked well for other individuals with autism is for their families to treat this new “adventure in living” as they would for a person who is going away to college or to summer camp. You want to help your son or daughter sprout new wings and enjoy their new “home-away-from-home” while staying connected with the family.
FAMILIAR SURROUNDINGS. Help your son or daughter gather up some items from home to take to their new home. For example, they could take their pillow and bedspread, a stuffed animal, and selected favorite books, DVD’s, and CD’s. Instead of buying all new items for their move, stick with familiar pajamas, shoes, pants, shirts, comb, sheets, DVD and CD player, and even toothbrush and underwear. One of my adult friends with autism tells me he can still smell the familiar smell of home when he opens a book from his childhood. He has lived away from his home for almost ten years and he cherishes that smell.
VISUAL REMINDERS. One family made a photo album of their daughter’s pets, her family home, the members of her family, and other familiar sights. This book keeps her connected with home and helps the staff and other folks at her new home learn more about her family. Also, family members could take some time to visit her new home during the week to become more familiar with her staff, her weekly activities, and her new friends. Take some pictures to keep in a photo album so you can have meaningful conversations when she comes home for the weekend or holidays.
STAY CONNECTED. Remember how much you loved getting something in the mail when you were at camp? You were just gone for a week or two, but the letter from home was precious. So, even if your son or daughter is not able to read, I still encourage you to send a letter or postcard every single week with just a brief update of the family or just a “howdy” and hug from home. I also encourage you to send an e-mail at least once a week, including photos when possible. Make arrangements for the staff to print out the message. Again, the message can be brief, but it helps keep those family ties strong.
We welcome your input. Share challenges and ideas based on your experiences or intuition. Just click on the comments button or send an e-mail to talk@FAQautism.com.
NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At FAQautism.com we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. Send email to talk@FAQautism.com And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. http://FAQautism.com