Tips for apartment hunting special needs families

Special needs parents generally have a tremendous amount of responsibility on their plates at any given time. I’ve experienced a great deal of things over my two decades as a special needs parent and I try to share some of that here.

People ask me questions all the time and sometimes those questions are such that I think it’s worth writing a post about it. This particular question was in regards to house or apartment hunting when you have a special needs child. They specified the New York area and were specifically interested in locating an apartment. The concern was how to find something that met their unique needs as a growing special needs family, as well as what they should include in their thought process.

I was thinking about this over the last few days because I’m not looking to be in my house forever and while I wouldn’t be apartment shopping, I know many others might be. I’m also not an expert but I wanted to share some things that I would look for or do, were I in the market for an apartment. This can probably translate to house hunting as well as pretty much any location.

If I were looking for an apartment there are a few things I would be paying careful attention to, especially as it relates to my special needs kiddos. Again, this is what I would do and your mileage may vary.

Putting aside the financial part of this, and let’s just assume that you are looking for something that fits your budget. We don’t need to talk about that. There are some things to consider when looking for a new place to call home.

If I were apartment hunting right now, I would be focusing on things that matter in everyday life. I’m going to take on a few of these things and share some of my thoughts on each.

Location

While this may seem like an obvious thing to think about, the some reasons may not be so obvious. When we think location, we’re often thinking about things like safety, and schools. I’ll get into schools in a minute. When you’re a special needs parent, you need to pay attention to things like proximity to the support and services your child needs. What are your potential neighbors like? Are you in an area that is more tolerant of people who may be different? Is this a place where you feel like your family can be themselves and not have to worry about too much judgement? Those are important things that we don’t always think about until it presents itself as a problem. So, location matters.

What’s Management Like?

I was just talking to someone the other day who was asking for help because their child elopes and their landlord would not allow them to add additional locks to the doors and windows. I would want to know this prior to moving in. Find out if management allows for accommodations to be made inside your apartment to meet your childs unique needs. While they may not want to foot the bill, it’s important that you be allowed to adapt your apartment to meet the safety needs of your child. If they don’t, it’s better to find out now.

Safety

This probably goes without saying but if you have a child that is prone to elopement, you probably wouldn’t be looking for an apartment on the third floor that has an easily accessible balcony. I would pay attention to things like that. Likewise, I would look at pool access and safety in order to better navigate daily life. Kids on the spectrum tend to be escape artists and you want to be aware of your surroundings so you can better maintain your child’s safety.

Schools

Anytime parents decide to move, for whatever reason, one of the big things is always looking at the school systems. When you’re a special needs parent, you need to look a little deeper and make sure that they are equipped to provide your child with the supports and services they need to thrive. This can be more challenging because our kids sometimes need things that not every school is capable of offering. Don’t take their word for either. Do your research and reach out to other special needs families and get their advice and input. Trust me, it’s important.

Support

It’s important to have support for yourself as a parent as well. Maybe it’s a mom or dad’s group. Maybe it’s a local organization that provides respite for exhausted parents. The point is this. It’s important to not only make sure your child has the support they need, but that you also have the support you need as well. As parents, we often neglect our own needs and I want to remind you of the importance of selfcare. Make sure you know what’s available in the area you’re moving to.

Resources

Apartment hunting can be incredibly stressful, especially in places like NY, where this question originated from. When you factor in the additional needs of special needs children, it can be quite overwhelming to find exactly what you need or are looking for.

I wanted to suggest a couple of website to use for reference. As this is a blog related to autism, I’m a huge fan of The Autism Society. They are a terrific resource and may be able to help you locate services and supports. They have local chapters all over the country and for my reader in NY, here’s a direct link to the chapter closest to you.

As for help searching for the actual apartment, you can use sites like Zumper to help you search online and filter the results. It makes it so much easier when you can use filters to automatically include or exclude things from your search. You can sometimes even virtually tour the apartment before seeing it in person. Don’t be afraid to utilize these types of resources because they can make your search so much easier.

Again, I’m not a professional but these are just some things to think about if you’re apartment shopping as a special needs family. Thank you so much for the question and I hope this helps. If anyone has a question about this or anything else parenting or special needs parenting related, please shoot me an email and I’ll do my best to help.

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Curtis G.

Very informative article and much needed advice for those with special needs children or siblings living with them who are apartment hunting and need to consider these factors.

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