As a licensed and certified speech/language pathologist for over 20 years, I have been working with many families that have a child with special needs, many of which have a child on the autism spectrum (ASD). Over and over again parents have shared with me that they chose their particular home and/or location because of their child with special needs. There are important factors to consider when looking for a home if you have a child in your family with special needs.
First, consider the location in regard to both public and private schools. Not all public school systems are created equal in regard to their programming and funding for special needs services. Some districts may be highly regarded for their services, while others may not be as well funded or supported. In addition, if private school is a consideration, there may be chartered schools that specialize in the care and education of children with ASD. In our community, there are at least 6 centers I can think of just off the top of my head that specialize in servicing children on the Autism Spectrum. Many of these schools in our community are within the same region of town (i.e. the north side). In addition, some of the schools may offer transportation.
In addition to the school district, the county in which a child lives may have a large impact on funding available for services. For example, within local communities, several school districts may be highly regarded for servicing children with special needs, but there may be county lines within these communities in which each county offers completely different levels of funding and support, such as in the case of early intervention, therapy, transitional and/or respite services. One side of the street a child may get all EI services paid for by the county in which they live, and across the street, very limited EI services are paid for because the county is different.
Communities also offer different recreational facilities, parks, and children’s programs. Check to see if the community has accessible parks, sidewalks, and/or trails. Do the parks have playgrounds with equipment for special needs children? Having a nearby playground with a swing that you can walk to everyday may be great for the child that seeks that particular sensory input. Check to see if there is a local recreation center, and if it has a year round indoor pool, or special recreational classes for children with special needs. There are many more recreational and extra-curricular options for children these days such as art studios for children, music/movement classes, sports, etc.. Check to see if there are any in the community that you are looking into, and if they offer support for children with special needs/ASD.
Last, consider the proximity to local Children’s or specialized hospitals, or your doctor. Is there easy access to a highway, and is it easily accessible any time of day (i.e. during rush hour) if there is an emergency? How are the emergency services in the area? What is the response time?
Taking the time to investigate a community thoroughly before you move may be very helpful if you have a child with special needs and/or ASD. If you are in the Columbus, Ohio area, and you need any help locating a new home, I would be happy to assist you!
Jenny Ryan Fusco, M.A. CCC-SLP and Realtor
Jeannine Ryan Smith Team, HER Realtors