Relocating from one city to another (or one country to another) is hard enough without having the extra challenge relocating a loved one or family member with special needs. However, if you do find yourself facing this situation, there are several resources that can assist you in a smooth transition.
Destination services providers can serve as a valuable resource. Destination services consultants are very knowledgeable about local resources for families with disabled children and adults, and this topic is something that they discuss upfront from the beginning of their needs assessment with each family.
The two main concerns that seem to be at the top of every list are schools that can provide special needs support and access to doctors and specialists that might be needed. Generally, the challenges vary from city to city.
For school age children, it's advisable to arrange a pre-relocation visit to schools for assessment. Then, depending on the type of disability, it’s important to look at accommodation and transportation options. Relocating with a special needs child is fundamentally different because the needs of the child must come before the rest of the family and the new job itself. Once those are settled, the other elements can more naturally fall into place.
Once the destination services consultant identifies the school districts with curriculum that can support the child’s learning and development, they normally connect the parents with the Special Education departments in those districts for a direct and confidential conversation.
In addition to destination services providers, the U.S. Department of State is another resource. It keeps an updated list of Regional Education Officers by country, area, and school specifically for relocating families who are looking for resources for their special needs child. This list is maintained for the U.S. Foreign Service and is updated by families who are actually enrolled in them, so the information is accurate and up-to-date. This information is available to the public at www.state.gov.
The European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education is also another great resource.
Other resources include:
• This Re:locate magazine article with a UK/International perspective
• Complex Child, an online magazine run by parents of children with disabilities
• Tips from Your Storage Finder, a household goods storage firm
The National Down Syndrome Society provides the following links for support:
I have never relocated due to a corporate relocation; however, I have experienced a few personal moves with my family, so I know how hard moving can be. I am also the mother of three children, including a 24-year-old son with Down syndrome. Finding the right school and medical professionals for our son was our top priority when searching for a new neighborhood. It took hours of research (in addition to the hours we spent meeting the different principals, teachers, and medical professionals) before we made our selection, and we only moved 30 minutes away.
Whether you are moving 30 miles away or 3000 miles away, the process is the same. You will need to thoroughly research your options, and please remember to utilize the available resources for assistance with the process.