There are great incentives to move your family into a tiny home. It can shift your perspective on the presence of material wants in your life, it reduces your day-to-day impact on the environment, you can even strengthen your bonds. That said, it’s important to recognize that this way of life can require a certain amount of adjustment to get the most out of it.
This may be particularly apt when you have family members who live with autism. As it is often the case that those who are neuroatypical experience sensory difficulties, suddenly being introduced into a space that is not only new but requires adjustment can understandably be disruptive. That’s not to say that such difficulties should in any way exclude them from the immense personal benefits of being part of the tiny house movement.
It’s worth taking some time to examine how you can move into a tiny home in a way that treats your autistic family members with the kindness, consideration, and respect they deserve. We’re going to review a few of the key areas you can focus on and some tools you can use to approach the matter.
It isn’t wise to go into any new home situation without making adequate preparations first. This is especially true when you have a family member who may become uncomfortable if certain elements aren’t in place. Indeed, those who live with autism can find new environments particularly stressful, or if there are unplanned events that occur which disrupt the routines they rely upon. As such, it’s important to take time to review what may cause hurdles for your family member, and make arrangements to mitigate them.
When you are viewing a tiny home, it can be important to take your family along with you. Talk to them about how they are feeling. Make it clear that nothing is set in stone, and that you would like their input into the process. Go through the house and identify areas for concern, then consider what can be altered or adapted to make them feel safer and more at ease. Make note of areas you need to prepare for them before you move in, and items you’ll need to purchase well in advance.
If you are renting a tiny home rather than buying, it’s also important to ensure that the property is on the level and suitable for your needs. The last thing you or your family wants is for your move to be disrupted by rental scammers that results in you not moving into the property at all or saddled with a landlord who doesn’t provide you with the promised amenities. Be wary of application processes that don’t involve background checks or listings that look too good to be true. Ensure that any terms that you have agreed upon are committed to writing and form part of the rental contract.
Arrange Coping Mechanisms
Part of being successful in easing your way into a tiny home with an autistic family member is ensuring that supportive coping mechanisms are in place. At a time in which your loved one’s routine is going to be disrupted — and that’s almost unavoidable when moving house — you must make certain that there are strategies to take the load of their anxiety, stress, and other emotions that they may find overwhelming.
Firstly, make sure you pack your belongings so that those items that bring your family member comfort are easily accessible. You always want to make your tiny house into a home as soon as possible, but your priority is to put those familiar items in an area for your loved one to utilize them. Make certain that they know where these items are at all times — they shouldn’t gain additional anxiety from the idea that their sources of comfort and control are in unknown places to them. Indeed, it can help give them an added sense of control over the circumstances if you encourage them to pack those items themselves.
In fact, the moving process itself can be a coping mechanism. Giving your autistic family member certain activities to take charge of can be a good focus for their energy. Don’t give them so much that it sparks anxiety, and always talk to them about how much they feel they want to take charge of without becoming overwhelmed. But especially packing their own things, and taking control over what they want to keep and what they want to dispose of — which is very important when moving to the smaller space of a tiny home — can help to redirect the additional energy of a stressful situation, or at least give them the confidence that they have some control over the circumstances.
Design to their Needs
Children with autism can be particularly susceptible to intense sensory stimuli. As such, before moving everyone in, it can be helpful to go about making some small changes that minimize the elements that might be overwhelming in a new environment. Make sure that all the light fixtures are fitted with soft, warm light bulbs rather than fluorescent varieties — it can make the area more inviting, and less likely to be of an intensity that can be stressful. Indeed, making a quick pass to ensure walls in colors that are bright and bold get repainted to more neutral tones may ease the disruptive influence moving home may have.
As you and your family start to get settled into your new tiny home environment, you can explore what your autistic family member needs in that specific style of space. It may be the case that they find they need more organizational furniture to reduce the potential for overwhelming clutter in such a small area. The key is to keep talking to each other, make notes about what works and what doesn’t, and make small changes here and there rather than big, sweeping, stressful alterations.
While a tiny home can be a positive for anyone, if one of your family members lives with autism it is important to mitigate issues that may be overwhelming throughout the moving process. Think ahead, and keep all members of your family informed and engaged. With a focus on implementing coping mechanisms and an awareness of how design can trigger stress, you can help make certain the move is a rewarding experience.
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