Moving abroad with children with disabilities

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Strategies to help children with disabilities make the transition to a new country

Change is difficult for any child but for those with disabilities it can be even harder.

Plan ahead, noting all the possible pitfalls and enlist as much help as possible to help devise coping strategies.

Many of these points will be unique to your child but the following general strategies may help to prepare your child for the transition:

Prepare information for your child

If you have the chance to visit before you move, use this time to prepare information for your child or where possible take the child with you. Take photographs or video footage of your new house, the child’s school, important people and notable landmarks. If you don’t have a chance to visit do as much advance research as you can to build a clear picture of how your child is likely to cope.


Create a photo album for your child; make this as detailed as possible. Include pictures of every room in your house, any rooms the child will visit at school, the journey to school, local shops, the local park etc.

School uniform

If there is a school uniform at the new school buy it in advance and allow your child to get used to what they are going to wear.


Investigate whether or not all their favourite foods are readily available and if not where you might get them. If the food is very different try out some of the new things at home before you leave.


Make a visual story to show your child what will happen when your furniture is packed. Explain the process step by step using photographs. Get as much information from the moving company and other expats to make the story as reliable as possible. Rehearse the story with your child.


Make a calendar for the lead up to your move. Clearly mark the date of the move with a special sticker and cross off dates or remove a picture tab for each day to help gain an understanding of time.


Keep the child’s routine as close as possible to that at home. Use a picture timetable to show the sequence of what is happening each day to reassure your child that things are still the same.


Pack carefully. Think about whether there are any particular toys, cups, blankets, DVDs, night lights, towels etc. that will act as a comfort to your child. Give the child a backpack for the journey containing his favourite things.

Medical notes

Take copies of medical notes and notes from any other specialists involved with the care and education of your child.

By Rachel McClary

Rachel McClary is an Early Education Consultant and Freelance Writer. A qualified teacher with a Masters Degree in Psychology of Education, she has supported and provided training for childcare settings in all aspects of Special Educational Needs. She has also created and delivered early intervention programmes for families with children on the autistic spectrum. Rachel has 3 children aged 2, 4 and 8 and moved with her family from the UK to the United States 6 months ago. She blogs at

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  1. I’ve found your points very helpful and in line with my thoughts on helping a child with additional needs when going through the moving process. I write on this topic frequently and will share your article with my readership as well. 🙂

  2. Does anybody have any experience living in Mozambique with a child who has Autism? We can’t seem to find any resources about schooling and special education services.

  3. These are great points on preparation. If you find that upon getting acclimated to the new area, services are lacking or less robust than you had anticipated, there are support services available online as well. I’d be happy to share the new means of help available through “International Diagnostic Solutions” out of Washington, DC. We bring special needs assistance to areas where there are few available providers locally. Thanks!

  4. As an expat parent to a special needs child, I think your ideas for transition are right on. I’m sharing with others. Thanks for posting!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment.
      If you find time, and would like to, I would love it if you could share your advice too.

      1. I would like to do a guest post for you sometime. Let me know the specifics and I’ll get to it. 😉

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