For most buyers searching for and finding a new home in Fredericksburg and the surrounding area is pretty much about one thing… finding a home that you love. For parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) the challenge is more involved than just finding a house you love. It also involves finding a home where you can set your child up for success. The home might need to have some special features, and the process to find the home might be a little different as well. Full transparency for this article, I don’t have a lot of personal experience with children ASD and much of what I know has come from friends who are parents in this situation. Additionally, I have been educated some by my daughter… see her article regarding Fredericksburg resources for parents of children with disabilities.
HOME BUYING CONSIDERATIONS (HOUSE FEATURES/ELEMENTS)
Strong Sense of Community – I understand there are a number of special features or elements a parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder might need to consider when looking for their next home. For instance, many parents look for neighborhoods with a very strong sense of community. A strong sense of community with your neighbors lends itself to the “It takes a village mindset,” meaning it is important to have neighbors who lend extras eyes and can help when they notice something unusual that might be occurring. This is also important for another reason. Neighbors with a strong sense of community to one another are more likely to encourage positive interactions on the part of their children. Bullying is a major issue for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, with one report indicating 65% of parents reporting their children had been bullied within the past year.
No Water Oriented Properties – Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder tend to be drawn to water. Swimming pools, lakes, creeks, and rivers are extremely dangerous. According to the National Autism Association drowning is among the leading causes of death of individuals with autism. In fact with children with ASD who are under the age of 14, in a three year period, drowning accounted for 91% of deaths in the U.S.
Fenced yards or properties – Children with ASD tend to be compelled to wander away from safe environments. Studies suggest that children under the age of 10 with ASD are 8 times more likely to wander away from safe places than their typically-developing siblings.
Quiet(er) Neighorhoods – Loud noises tend to be very problematic for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Homes near places like hospitals, fire and rescue stations, industrial areas, etc, should likely be avoided.
Open Floor Plans – Part of being successful with children with ASD at home is being able to maintain line of sight with your child. Open floor plans can be beneficial in that regard.
Same Level Bedrooms– Having a bedroom on the same floor and close to parents lends itself to a sense of calm and safety.
HOME SHOPPING PROCESS
Now the process of shopping for your next home could prove to be very frustrating for the parents for which I am writing this article. That is because the internet is not quite as capable to help you find the criteria you in need in a home as it might be to others. Additionally, you are going to need a real estate professional that understands some of your challenges and is willing to provide some services that many agents don’t really offer anymore.
Searching online – So, well over 90% of home buyers today look for their next home online, and you should too. But, most home searches can’t handle some of the special features that could be critically important to you, like fenced yards for instance. Even the search systems that somewhat offer fenced yards as a search criteria, if the listing agent doesn’t input the data correctly, the home might show erroneously. This is where an agent who is willing to manually look for a home for you is important.
So, why is this an issue? Many agents today don’t look manually for the buyer clients at all. They set their clients up in automated digital searches that send their clients email listings. Then they wait for their clients to call them with a home they want to see. But here is how I see this. My real estate team is working in and looking at real estate and real estate listings all day, every day. It is what we do. It isn’t what you do. Why then wouldn’t we provide the service of constantly being on the lookout for your next home and searching manually for you?
Strong Odors, Loud Noises, and Tactile Tendencies – I already addressed the fact that loud noises can be problematic for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. But so can strong smells. Believe it or not, odors are a fairly common issue in homes you visit while looking for your next home. I am also told by those who have studied ASD that these children often are very tactile. They like to touch things. For all of these reasons, if you are viewing homes with your children, it could be very beneficial to have a real estate professional that is willing to do advance scouting work for you. I mean an agent who is willing to go preview homes before you, to determine if there are likely to be odor or noise issues, or if a home is not child friendly with valuables and breakables within easy reach.
So, why have I written this article? There are several reasons, but the most relevant reason is to give a bit of a voice to parents of children with ASD, who probably possibly view the home shopping process as overwhelming. I want you to know I hear your voice. I also want you to know that you will find understanding with my team. We want to help make this a much less overwhelming situation for you.