Moving house with a disabled child
in Parents with disabled children: handling stress

Moving house is one of the most stressful things a family can go through. When you have a disabled child there are many extra factors to consider, on top of the usual expense and logistics of moving to a new location. 

One of your biggest considerations will be your child’s support network, which includes not only schools, medical care and other local services, but also the support you get from family and friends. Even if you’re moving specifically to be closer to family, you may be moving away from other support that you’ve learned to rely on.

When moving to a new location, you can help make the transition smoother by setting up as much as possible in advance. You may find it helpful to consider the following areas of support [1].

Access and information


Find out where your new local services will be and how to access them. You should be able to find information about services and support for disabled children on any local authority website. If you are receiving services and support from the local authority where you live now, make sure you talk to them about transferring to your new local authority, as you may have to undergo a new assessment. There’s an expectation that the local authority where you live will at least liaise with the new authority about your child’s needs and support in the interim.

You may also want to find out about what any registration processes and what you will have to do. If there is a waiting list, find out how long you are likely to have to wait and, if appropriate, get on the list as soon as possible.

Cost


Affordability is one of the main barriers between parents and services. Check if there are cost differences in services between where you live now and where you are moving to. Unfortunately, if you are receiving payments or funding for certain services now, your new local authority is not under any obligation to provide the same level of support or help in the interim while waiting for a new assessment to be carried out.

Seek advice about this from the Contact helpline on 0808 808 3555, helpline@contact.org.uk. You may wish to factor this into your budget if you are able, and, if necessary, work out where you can make savings.

Schools


One of the biggest challenges you are likely to face is how to integrate your child into school and the wider community. How easy or hard this is for you will depend largely on where you are moving, and the age of your child. 

Many parents find it difficult to push back against the status quo, concerned that they might be thought of as a ‘trouble parent’ [1], but it’s important to find a balance. Your child’s school experience is an essential part of their wellbeing and will help them to develop social skills for forming relationships as they get older. If there’s anything you’re not happy with, ask for something to be done about it, or consider other options.

You’ll probably have started looking at schools as soon as you started considering the move. It’s also worth investigating community activities and other social opportunities for your child. If your child is receiving extra help at school, for example they have a statement of special educational needs, Education, Health and Care plan or Coordinated Support Plan, speak to the teacher responsible at school, and find out how the move to a new school will be managed. Again, seek advice from Contact’s education advice line about this on 0808 808 3555, email helpline@contact.org.uk

Family support


The work that goes into parenting a child with disabilities can take up so much of your time and energy that friends and family end up taking a back seat [2], but it’s impossible to put a value on having people living nearby whom you can rely on. Support from friends and extended family support can help you cope with the additional time demands and unpredictability of parenting [1] and, most of the time, it doesn’t cost anything.

If you haven’t yet decided where to move, consider areas that are near supportive friends and family. They may even be able to offer advice on local services. Don’t assume they’ll always be able to support you though – other people shouldn’t be the only reason you move. Remember that if they decide to move away in a year’s time, you’ll still have to live in the new location. 

It’s important to access whatever support is available, as it can allow you to spend quality time with your other children, and with each other as a couple [1]. If you are moving somewhere you won’t have family locally, make sure you check out options for respite care and other support such as counselling, sibling support and childcare. If funded support isn’t available, calculate the likely costs of any support you would have to pay for, and factor this into your moving plans.

General tips


Moving is stressful for everyone. These general tips may help to take some of the pressure off once you are ready to make the move.

Look after yourselves

Remember that you and your partner will also be affected by the upheaval of the move. During the build-up, eat well and try to get enough sleep. Don’t forget to think about activities that you can do in your new place, and make plans to explore the new area together.

Clear your schedule

During the week of the move, take some time off work and arrange for someone to look after the children, so that you can focus on getting everything else sorted.

Let yourself off the hook

You’re probably going to feel anxious and stressed for a bit, so don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect. Give yourself some space. Do some slow breathing. Talk to someone.

Accept help

If anyone offers practical support with your move, say, yes! Hand over a copy of your to-do list if you have to – just let people help.

Focus on the positives

Remind yourself of why you are moving – better job prospects, a nicer location, or perhaps just a home that suits your family’s needs better. Whatever it was that led you to make the decision to move, keep it in mind, and look forward to the things that matter most.

References


[1] Resch, J. A., Mireles, G. Benz, M. R., Grenwelge, C., Peterson, R., & Zhang, D. (2010). Giving Parents a Voice: A Qualitative Study of the Challenges Experienced by Parents of Children With Disabilities. Rehabilitation Psychology, 2010, 55(2), 139-150. 

[2] Brannen, M. A., & Heflinger, C. A. (2006). Caregiver, child, family, and service system contributors to caregiver strain in two mental health service systems. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research, 33, 408 – 422.

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