Following on from my last article on Moving House, we are now well and truly settled into our forever home, and I have a fully-fledged kindergarten boy who is loving this new phase of his life!
In Part One of our Moving House update, I discussed the challenges we faced moving from the home where Luka was born and was very familiar with, to a short-term rental and entirely new community. There were certainly many lessons to be learnt in managing the immense amount of new information Luka was required to process each minute of each day.
Using the learnings I discussed in the last article, our second move was much easier on Luka, although we did have some major behavioural hurdles to navigate a few months after the move. I will discuss this in a separate article on managing cognitive fatigue in the next few months.
Set out below are some of the key steps we took before, during and after the move to help Luka settle into his new surrounds:
Before the Move
The benefit of renting prior to buying is that Luka was already familiar with his sister’s school, local shops, playgrounds, and his extra-curricular activities. All of these stayed the same and provided continuity for him, reducing the “mental load” of learning new things. We decided to stay local during this time and reduce the number of day trips to reduce the mental load of Luka needing to navigate other unfamiliar environments.
Once we had bought our house, I made a habit of moving our morning walks to the new area, at least a few times a week. We parked just near the house, and became familiar with the front fence, the red brick path, and the flowers outside. I used very simple language to describe the main features of the house.
Orientation and Mobility
We began with short walks from the house, up the big hill to see the horse, or around the block to see a house named after his sister. I allowed Luka to choose whether or not he would like to use a cane. The roads around our house are quite tricky to navigate, with steep hills, uneven terrain and no footpaths. He used the cane a few times, which I believe assisted him with depth perception, but quickly he decided it was easier to rely on holding my hand or listening to my auditory cues.
As Luka became more familiar with the area, he found his own favourite landmarks, so I would ask him to choose where he would like to walk. Key favourites included going up the big hill to see the horse, the big gates, a red letter box, and a smooth tree. We worked with our O&M Specialist, Dr Bronwen Scott, to help him navigate and feel comfortable in his environment, and he came to really enjoy these walks and develop fantastic language skills, too!
During the Move
The Final Viewing
Initially I had hoped to show Luka the house a few times, not just at final inspection. However, upon reflection I believe it was better that we only had one viewing prior to moving in, as the house had unfamiliar furniture and was set up differently from how it would be when we moved.
On the final inspection day, I tasked my husband with checking over the house, so I could focus on Luka. I told him in simple language what to expect – that we would go in the house, look at our new bedrooms and our new backyard, then go back home. Luka was happy to play in the front yard but initially wary of the inside as it was unfamiliar. As he was more comfortable outdoors, I took him through to the backyard, and let him explore in his own time, talking about what we could see (trees, a coop for the chickens) and hear (lots of kookaburras). As he got more comfortable to go inside, I explained simply and showed him his room, Lilly’s room, and our room, and he enjoyed walking between these.
Familiarity and Consistency
We planned our move over a period of 2 weeks. During this time, our short-term rental stayed exactly the same. With help from family, we moved all our furniture from storage and put it straight into place, focusing on the kids’ rooms first. We brought Luka over a few times, and he seemed very reassured seeing our familiar furniture.
All our boxes went into the garage, and at the recommendation of therapists, we committed to having just one box at a time in the house to minimise any clutter throughout the home. This helped with Luka’s visual mapping. In all honesty this also made it much easier for us to work through unpacking and finding homes for everything in a systematic way.
We didn’t stay in the new house until everything was set up. Luckily, there were only minimal changes to be made before the move, and we ensured all the kitchen counters, tables etc had foam corners. Being only 3 years old, these were all right at head-height, so the foam corners protected him from any nasty bumps.
After the Move
The last thing to move were the toys from the rental, and while I normally rotate fresh toys to the playroom each week, I kept the same ones in the new house so there was less change, which he seemed to enjoy.
We slept in with the kids the first few nights until we knew they could navigate the house themselves, and then set up a monitor in Luka’s room in case he woke up and seemed disoriented. Surprisingly, within a few days he was settled and loved his new room.
Luka was quick to pick up the new layout of our house and learn the words for his key spaces. We all referred to the rooms using the same words that he chose (e.g. always “front room” not “lounge”), so he didn’t feel confused. I also made sure to tell Luka where I was going at all times, so he knew how to find me.
We built in a lot of quiet time in the months after our move – again made quite easy by further lockdowns. While Luka had previously dropped his nap, I reintroduced it by taking him for drives so he had enforced quiet time.
These steps may seem like common sense, but they led to a much less stressful and happier move for Luka than the first time around. Interestingly, a few months after our move, we entered into a spike in challenging behaviour for Luka, which I will talk about more in a subsequent article. While some of this may have been related to cognitive fatigue in processing the move, I believe it may have also been related to a huge developmental leap.
Conclusion - it was worth it!
Overall, making the move to a new area, especially with a child who thrives on familiarity and routine, was a big decision, and not one to be taken lightly. There was no immediate need for us to move, although we did feel that eventually we would need a larger space. I had also read about other families with CVI who had really positive experiences living in quieter areas.
Moving did mean being further from our families and other support groups, and a huge cognitive load in managing change in all aspects of our lives – from navigating local shops and amenities, to joining new groups and making new friends.
Finding ourselves in a highly supportive community has made this all worthwhile, and we have seen how the quieter pace of life here has made such a difference to Luka’s development. In just over 6 months, Luka has gone from a toddler who was a very cautious walker, and speaking in very simple one or two word statements, to a confident little boy who can run outside, walk confidently into new environments (even indoors), and can communicate well in full sentences. I’ll never know how much of this change is due to the intensive therapy early in life, how much is coincidence, or his own determination; however I strongly believe that it is at least in part due to our decision to move. In this beautiful part of the world, we can slow down and breathe, enjoy the quietness of our area and take the time to really learn from our new daily rituals and the diverse nature surrounding us. If I had the choice, I would make this same decision a thousand times over.