Relocation can be stressful for families in the best of situations, but one of the major considerations for accepting a relocation involves the impact to one’s children. For families with a “special needs” child, moving can be particularly challenging.
According to The Digest of Education Statistics, from 2017 to 2018, the number of U.S. students ages three to 21 who received special education services was 14 percent of all public-school students. Though awareness of child learning, health disabilities and other special education needs have increased dramatically in the last decade, relocating loved ones with special needs usually requires more preparation and attention to details to ensure the right support is provided before, during, and after a transition.
Additionally, because health information about an employee / family is private, companies may never even know if relocation candidates turn down offers because they were either unsure if their child’s unique requirements could truly be met in the destination or that they would have access to the necessary professional special needs support services to make the move a reality.
Needs Assessment and Active Listening
NEI has considerable experience assisting families with special needs children, be it learning disabilities or health concerns, and we help navigate situations and develop solutions.
Our clients’ transferees each have a single point of coordination Account Executive who conducts a detailed Family Needs Assessment to learn the relocating family’s priorities and gain a thorough understanding of their needs and interests. NEI Account Executives are trained to recognize unspoken needs or concerns that could lead to employee / family reluctance to relocate.
NEI and client-approved service partners can provide guidance to families and work with resources in the destination to create a pre-move strategy and timetables designed to maximize the family’s time and address their concerns during the home finding trip.
Success Example: Short Term Rental with a Pool for Therapy Needs
NEI worked with a family moving from St. Louis to New Jersey that included two children, one of whom had special needs. The family’s original intent was to purchase a home, but due to other circumstances, they had to secure temporary living for six months with one requirement – it needed to include a pool for the child’s therapy, as well as a separate living space for him.
Identifying a real estate agent who specializing in short-term rentals was NEI’s first step. The agent quickly located a private residence that included both a pool and the exact accommodations requested so the children’s routines wouldn’t miss a beat, and each could attend their new schools.
Success Example: The Perfect Destination School
With the client’s approval, NEI partnered with a fee-based service partner to help a transferee find the perfect school for his child with autism for their Atlanta to Los Angeles relocation.
The service partner set up family appointments to visit each school, helped with the interview process, consolidated all documentation from the child’s previous program in Atlanta and even helped with school admissions paperwork – all while taking the family’s unique needs into consideration.
Planning, Research, Child Preparation
For families deciding to relocate with a special needs child, the most important step is to start research and planning early. Gathering all documents necessary to obtain the services and support needed in the new location is also critical. These letters from teachers, therapists and other professionals working with the child should be requested as quickly as possible to save time and stress.
Simultaneously, NEI provides links to school information in the destination city on our personalized NEI Cities website and, if client-approved, we recommend professional school search support to transferees. This is considered a best practice with NEI coordinating and managing expert service partners to provide assistance and advice to employees on available schools, curriculums, etc.
Success Example: Supporting a Child Not Happy about the Relocation
An NEI service partner, IMPACT Group, worked with a family who was going on their house hunting trip to South Carolina.
The family’s 10-year old autistic son was resisting them – at every step – and was very unhappy. However, he had a new passion – martial arts. The service partner located martial arts studios and recommended that the family visit included some free lessons to give their son exposure to different facilities and instructors.
Their son tried three different studios during their house hunting trip and, from that point on, he was “sold” on the relocation, even volunteering to help with both house hunting and decisions regarding the move.
If professional assistance is not offered by their employer, transferees are encouraged to contact destination area schools well in advance to discuss their child's needs and share copies of any individualized education plans. It is vital to speak to school counselors in the new location to understand the options a school offers.
Acquainting one’s special needs child with the idea of relocating is also an important step to introducing him or her to a move.
Experts encourage families to:
- Announce the move with plenty of advance warning: weeks for a younger child; a month or more for teenagers
- Make a visual schedule of the moving process
- Involve the child in planning and packing
- Show where the family is headed by viewing online photos / videos of their destination’s neighborhood, school, playgrounds, parks, library, etc.
Special attention to details for transportation of household goods and temporary living for the families of special needs children cannot be overlooked either.
Success Example: Exceptions for Household Goods and Temporary Living
During the NEI assessment call, a transferee indicated he had a child with additional needs and one of his biggest move worries concerned special medical equipment and temporary living needs.
Our Account Executive:
- Secured a client exception to move items that were a necessity for the child including a hoist chair, hospital bed, and automated wheelchair
- Worked with the client and temporary housing service partner to accommodate the family in an Airbnb that met their need for a home environment rather than a corporate apartment and arranged for installing a temporary wheelchair ramp at the front of the lodging
Patient, Proactive and Compassionate
Relocation success is so much more than just selling a home and moving household goods – it affects the entire family and requires everyone’s buy-in for the move to be a success.
Considering the human side of relocation is a unique differentiator at NEI as our Chairman, Kate Dodge, SCRP, was a child behavioral psychologist for 17 years prior to starting NEI. Understanding how important it is to be patient, proactive and compassionate for all relocations, but especially for those which can be more complicated, has been engrained in our culture and how we select our expert service partners since our company was founded.
If you would like to discuss proactive policy changes or options to help families with special needs children, please reach out to your NEI representative or Mitch Ulrich, CRP, NEI SVP of Global Mobility Strategies.