Roughly 4 million Australians live with some kind of disability, from limitations with movement to low or impaired vision. People with disabilities, especially children, need a different kind of home—one that helps them live a safe, independent and supported life. If you and your family are looking for a new home, one that can accommodate your child’s disability, this guide is a good reference for considerations specific to your child’s situation.
Talking to Your Child About Moving
Be as transparent as you can be with your child about what moving means. Will they have to go to a new school? Will the weather or climate be different? You can get them comfortable with moving by asking them to draw a picture of what they want their new bedroom to look like. Let them help you pick out new art and decorations. Encourage them to help you search for houses and look at pictures online. Talk to them about amenities that might interest them, like a nearby park, game room, swimming pool or big backyard for a dog.
Saving for a New Home
Buying and owning a home is a great way to create long-term financial security, something that often concerns parents of a child with a disability. When buying a home, especially for first-time homeowners, you’ll want to save as much money as you can. Try to get the balance on all your outstanding debts below 30 percent of the credit line. And pay off anything you can to elevate your credit score. Once you have a solid credit report, connect with a lender to get pre-approved for a mortgage in your price range.
Accessibility House Hunting
Finding a new home that is also the least restrictive environment for your child can be challenging. A child with mobility issues may benefit from ramps, wider hallways, lower countertops and no-slip flooring. For kids with low or no vision, a home with textured walls, contrasting colors and simple floor plans can be more comfortable and safer.
Families with a child on the autism spectrum can look for homes with sensory-free areas, doors with internal and external locks and houses in quiet communities. If finding a home that meets your needs is too challenging, consider hiring a contractor to go with you on tours to help consult with the modifications you’ll want to consider.
Home Buying in the Age of COVID
While many people experience few or no symptoms of COVID-19, groups at the highest risk for the coronavirus could face a life-threatening situation. If this applies to you and your family, start your house hunting off with virtual tours. Only go in-person for the homes you feel really likely to purchase.
As always, wear a mask, keep hand sanitizer in your pocket and ask the realtors about the COVID-19 precautions they are taking. And don’t let your guard down once you buy. Talk to packing and moving companies about the protections they make against spreading the infection.
Stress-Free Moving Day
Children with disabilities need the stability of a routine. That means change is hard, and one of the biggest changes with moving is surviving moving day. Help your differently-abled child navigate the stress and anxiety of moving day by asking a friend, family member or trusted babysitter to get them out of the house and keep them occupied for the day. If they have been handling the transitions well, give older kids a moving day checklist of tasks they can help with, like keeping the dog calm, sweeping floors, loading the car or organizing house plants.
Buying a new home is an exciting adventure for anyone, but for families with a child with a disability, finding a home that empowers their independence can make for a more welcome adventure. You may have to take care of some modifications after you move in, but by focusing on your child’s needs at the beginning, you will start your home-buying journey off right.
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