In today's society, it's a rare family that hasn't experienced moving to a new apartment, house, condo, housing unit or temporary shelter. Regardless of our age or where we live, we all seem to experience ups and downs brought on by economics, natural disasters, budding relationships, marriage, death, family emergencies and, more recently, boomerang children returning home. Packing boxes and moving seem to be the norm for our society.
From my own experience of living in four states and seven different apartments/houses since I was born (not including my college years), I can attest to the turmoil that comes with this dramatic change in setting. Although I have tried hard to view each as an "adventure," and my husband and I have tried to teach our son to see them in that light as well, moving into a new home is always stressful and exhausting with a bit of trepidation thrown in. What was a stable environment - home - becomes chaotic and, therefore, uncertain and scary.
In this episode, Jasmine is considering moving herself and Jabbar into a new home with Dr. Joe. Both Jasmine and Crosby are worried about how Jabbar will react to this change, and to lessen his stress, they decide to hold off telling him until the time of the move gets closer. It is also apparent that - due to their personal history together - there is tension between Jasmine and Crosby over the move. Family moves affect everyone - not just those that are actually making the move, but also extended family members, friends and former lovers. Crosby has to face the fact that Jasmine is moving on without him.
Family moves evoke a myriad of emotions in folks who do not have an autism spectrum disorder. Can you imagine what would happen if Max's family moved? If Adam and Kristina announced they must leave their house to move to another, totally different house?
Jasmine and Crosby end up sorting things out on an adult level; even though Crosby may not like it, he has sufficient coping skills to handle the upcoming changes. And Jabbar, too, will likely adapt just fine. Max, on the other hand, would likely not be so sanguine about a family move and would also not resolve it as quickly as Jabbar might.
As is usual for people with autism or Asperger's, Max much prefers stability and predictability in his daily life. A family move would throw all that out the window, and Kristina and Adam would have their hands full. As verbal as he is, Max would no doubt let everyone know of his displeasure immediately and loudly. In a previous episode (when Kristina turned off the video game and Max had to stay home from the road trip to his great-grandmother's house), we got to see how Max handled a dramatic change to his expectations; it was not a pretty picture. Everything worked out in the end, of course, but he was furious and had a lengthy meltdown (though it was neat to see him attempting to use his negotiation skills!).
The reality is that families who have children with autism or Asperger's move frequently. We know this because many such families have difficulty finding resources in their own community, so they move to be closer to local services. Sometimes, the family must downsize their living arrangements due to the expense of individual treatment therapy (behavioral, medical or educational) for their child. Other times, sadly, the family falls apart due to the extreme stress of parenting a child with autism. Many, many children with autism go through the hardship of losing their friends, teachers, school, neighbors, relatives and stable environments when parents pack up boxes and furniture and load them into a moving van.
Even though it would be difficult, Max would likely survive a family move. He would do so much more readily, however, with preparation, tons of explanation, a positive attitude about making new friends and input into some aspects of the process. Max and others on the spectrum cope better in these circumstances if they are able to read stories about family moves, are asked to pick out their new bedrooms and to select the color of the paint on their bedroom walls (even if they choose black; hey, it can always be changed later), are allowed to choose where to put their personal belongings, have a say in when they get to stop for snacks or meals on the road to the new place, are asked to give a presentation in their classroom on their move prior to the final day at the former school, are encouraged to take pictures of their old and new school (and the teachers in both), are asked to write letters to their previous and new teachers, etc. etc. etc...
There are numerous ways to help someone with an autism spectrum disorder cope with family moves, which do not all have to be disastrous. They can be fun, adventurous and a real bonding experience for all involved when care and consideration of the autism disorder is taken into account.
It is nice that Jasmine and Crosby take the time to consider Jabbar's needs and what they must do to make it easier for him to move into a new home with Dr. Joe. Families who have children with an autism spectrum disorder must also do this, but likely at a much higher level of intensity. Although it may mean a lot of proactive work, it is well worth it in the long run.
Written by Sheila Wagner, M.Ed.