While most families are enjoying the summer holiday, you may be among the many military families making a permanent change of station, or PCS, move. Moving means a new state or country, a new home, and new schools for your children. For families affected by ADHD, a PCS includes finding new medical professionals and transferring or reapplying for academic accommodations.
There are 2 million children in school who have at least one parent wh is on active military duty, a member of the National Guard or Reserves, or veterans. Approximately 10-12 percent of these children are receiving services through special education programs. Active duty military families experience a PCS move on average every two to three years; many families have moved at least once.
Moving results in changes to almost every major aspect of your children’s lives. There is a new community for children to become accustomed to, including new housing, a different climate, new school, making new friends, and a change in extracurricular activities. Parents have to find a new healthcare provider and make arrangements for their children to continue receiving medication management and behavior treatment.
The actual process of moving can be stressful by itself. Depending on how far away the new PCS, your family may be spending time driving or flying across the country or overseas to a new country and then time in hotels or temporary lodging while everything is coordinated. For those families with children affected by ADHD, the challenges of moving can be more difficult.
Here are five strategies you can use to help your children with ADHD cope with a PCS move:
Talk about the move
Help your children understand the move by having multiple, planned conversations. Give your children as much information as you can. Encourage questions, allowing time for them to process the information, and prepare for a number of reactions. Help your children gain comfort by framing the move in a positive light. Have your conversations include searching for pictures of their new hometown, researching extra-curricular activities, and other places and activities they can look forward to experiencing.
Keep a routine
While the stability of a familiar place may be gone, keeping a routine can help your children feel secure and settle more quickly. Before you move, allow your children to choose one or two comfort items each that will stay unpacked and they can hold onto during the move. Continue to keep family routines such as eating meals together and going to bed at the same time each night during the actual transition process. Keeping a routine helps children know that even though they are moving, there are core pieces of their life that are not changing.
Encourage both new and old friendships
Making new friends can be a struggle for a child affected by ADHD. When you talk about the move and are looking up new activities, go ahead and sign your children up for extra-curricular activities they have show an interest in. You can also encourage new friendships by attending activities as a family after the move. This could be hosting a cookout at your house or attending a community event. Let your children see you making new friends.
Don’t forget about creating ways for your children to stay in touch with their friends from the previous location. With the internet and phones, there are a number of ways for children to stay connected.
Keep thorough health and education records
To help find a new doctor and enroll your child in a new school, make sure you keep thorough records before a possible move. It is much easier to hand-carry documents rather than wait for the new school or new doctor’s office to submit a formal request. Medical records should include names and dosages of medications and types of therapies your children were receiving. Educational records should include withdrawal paperwork, report cards, and a copy of the previous 504 plan or individualized education plan (IEP) with specific accommodations that worked well. By having these items, you can help create smoother transitions.
Contact the new school about academic accommodations
When transferring an IEP across states, the new school district must provide comparable services to those included in your children’s current IEPs until they are able to conduct their own evaluation. If a new evaluation determines a need, you and the school district will develop a new IEP. Make sure to obtain and share the following documents from the old school to make this process as seamless as possible:
For more information on changing schools and academic plans for military families: