Moving vs Moving as a Special Needs Parent

With this impending move (to where, we still don’t know) looming, I’ve been reflecting on how different our experience is from some of our friends and family.

When my husband goes for an interview anywhere, we all tag along. Because he’s not just getting interviewed for a job…we’re interviewing the schools and community. Could be the greatest job in the world but if it doesn’t come with what we need school and community-wise? It’s a no-go.

When most people move and schools are a consideration, they are looking at the report cards the school gets from the state and federal government. They, for the most part, find all they need to know from a piece of paper. Not so if you have a special needs child. You have to physically go to the school. Meet the principal. See the potential classrooms, meet teachers and therapists and make sure the school is capable of accommodating your child’s need. Your child is dependent on sign language for a hearing or language impairment…the teacher better know sign language. Your child has a physical disability? You have to see exactly how he or she will maneuver around the school. And despite IDEA and the ADA all schools are not equal in their capability of providing necessary services. And if you’re moving to an area where school choice is limited, you don’t want to get caught in a bind.

The community also makes a huge difference. If your child has a specialized diet for health reasons (ie gluten free for celiacs or dairy free for allergies) are you able to get what you need at local stores, or will you have to drive a couple of hours every week to get most of your staples. That’s no small consideration. And even with online retailers, it can still be a huge hassle. Not everyone may carry all that you need and is delivery a huge issue in your area. People may be kind, but are they accepting? Visit local businesses with your child, visit potential churches, and local parks. Do people avoid you? Do they seem overwhelmed by your presence even if your child is well-behaved? You may think those things don’t matter, but they could be the difference in isolation and loneliness when the chips are down. A good friend recently took a lower paying job in her hometown where people knew her and her child because she couldn’t handle the hostile stares when her son would “sing” or “hum” to himself in the supermarket in the small town she was living in and God forbid he had an actual meltdown. She not only got zero support, she was derided and even had the police called on her in an incident where her child was doing no more than wailing loudly because of a sensory issue (her husband video-taped it, it was not pleasant).

No, for special needs parents, there are a whole host of things you have to consider before accepting a job for career advancement or more money. It goes well beyond what most can imagine and we are in the thick of it.