Practical House-Hunting Advice for Parents of Children on the Autism Spectrum

The following is a guest blog by Jenny Wise. Ms. Wise enjoys providing advice to parents who are considering homeschooling their kids. She chronicles her family’s ups and downs in homeschooling on her site, Special Home Educator, as well as provides helpful homeschooling tips and resources.

Child With Dog

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Change can be especially hard for families with children on the autism spectrum. However, sometimes the benefits of moving outweigh the hassle. In order to mitigate any negativity and trouble that arises from the decision to move, it’s important to make a plan of action before you start house-hunting. Know what you’re looking for, start the adjustment process early, and try to keep your gaze on the joy this change can bring. From working with an expert realtor to creating a special spot for your child, here is how you can do just that.

Preparing Your Family in Advance

As soon as moving becomes an option, it’s important to start opening conversations amongst your family on why moving is desirable, its benefits, and what can be expected. Explain what you’re looking for in a new neighborhood, and have an honest conversation with your spouse about what you can realistically afford. Make the whole family feel involved, though expect some resistance — it will fade over time.

To avoid the feeling of instability, it might be best to leave house-hunting to the parents. But once a home is chosen, take pictures and show them to your child regularly, allowing them to give their opinions.

Finding the Right House

Many things that may bother people on the autism spectrum can be easily fixed (e.g., paint colors, lighting, appliances, etc.). On the other hand, others may be more difficult and taken together can be costly (e.g., echoey rooms, design, ease of shelves and countertops, etc.). Look for a home that will simplify your life. Look for floor plans that flow — where every room has a purpose and the materials used are durable.

Preparing the Home

Make the house move-in ready, and keep it simple by hiring professionals to make it neat before moving in. This can be in the form of hiring a cleaning service to thoroughly clean your new home from top to bottom, having the air ducts cleaned, and working with movers who can transport your belongings and help unpack.

Upon Move-In

The transition can be smoother if the new home looks much like the previous home with the same furniture. It’s important to bring all the items your child is fond of and used to. If you would like to transition to new furniture, consider doing that slowly over time.

If the house has hardwoods, bring in thicker, plush rugs to help absorb sounds. Adding fluffy pillows and blankets in rooms will also reduce echos and reverb. In addition to the benefits of being able to control the lighting, curtains can also serve as a noise-reducer.

A Designated Spot

Help make the house a home for your child by creating a special place for them. If there’s an extra room, garage, basement, or den, then you are in luck because you can spread out. If not, just focus on their bedroom. Try to make the space comfortable — a retreat when the world becomes too much. Choose soothing paint colors, playable surfaces, climbable areas, and most importantly, a safe place for them to explore.

Finding a new house can be fun and exciting for the whole family. With a child on the autism spectrum, the process will just require some additional planning and preparation. As soon as possible, get your child involved, make the introduction over time, and give them all the info they need. By planning in advance and prepping the home to accommodate your child’s needs, you can find the perfect house to serve as your new home.

If you’re new to the area and your child is in need of certain therapies, look to the services of Gem State Developmental Center.

New pandemic helpline: Free teletherapy for people with IDD and their staff

This has not been an easy year for any of us, and the presence of COVID-19 can be felt in every aspect of our lives. For people with developmental disabilities and those who care for them during this pandemic, feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety are commonplace. COVID-19 affects us far more than just the physical symptoms – the mental health impact of this pandemic is enormous, and according to recent research, individuals with developmental disabilities are dealing with more COVID-19 mental and emotional health complications than nearly any other population.

As a result of this, The Arc of California teamed up with the Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare, and together they just launched a new hotline designed specifically to address this need. Called “Project Connect,” this teletherapy service aims to provide support, referrals, and guidance to those with developmental disabilities and their staff. It is operated by social work graduate students 24-hours per day, and is entirely free.

To learn more about Project Connect, please refer to the following article. You may also reach the number directly at 888-847-3209.

Troubleshooting the participant half of telehealth connections

At GSDC, we have made it our focus to maximize participant and staff safety through social distancing, mandatory face masking for staff, regular disinfection of surfaces according to CDC protocols, and following all local and national guidelines during this pandemic. Through our telehealth services, we are able to continue to provide the same quality of therapeutic assistance that our participants have come to expect from us in person.

However, technology doesn’t always play nicely, and that is especially true when two parties need their internet connections to get along. If you have experienced telehealth difficulties and it’s due to a connection issue on your end, we want to help in whatever way we can.

We have created the following short guide as a starting place for troubleshooting potential connection problems. Additionally, please feel free to reach out to our IT staff if you’re experiencing telehealth connection issues beyond the scope of this guide.

Click here for a printable PDF copy of this guide (4.5″ x 6″)

Help the Idaho Council of Developmental Disabilities with a short survey!

At Gem State Developmental Center, we have always been strong supporters of groups that advocate for the people we serve, including the Idaho Council of Developmental Disabilities. Every five years, the ICDD conducts an anonymous survey, seeking out ideas from the community to improve the lives of those with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families.

The survey is available online in English and Spanish until June 30, 2020, and it will take about 20 minutes to complete. Just click the links below to be redirected to the survey:

If you need help with the survey or would like a paper copy, call 208-334-2178, or email

COVID-19 Re-Entry Intake

For a printable PDF version of this document, click here.

Under administrative direction and approval, before services are provided or received, each person must be generally healthy, free from communicable disease, and show no signs of contagious and infectious illness.

During the COVID–19 pandemic, people with COVID–19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2–14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID–19:

  • Fever, chills, or headache
  • Cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue, muscle or body aches
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

Anyone who exhibits any contagious and infectious illness or symptoms will need to seek medical assistance and stay home for a certain time period. The administration will use CDC guidelines and determine time period.

Before direct support staff and participants are permitted to return, provide, and/or receive services and supports, they must receive administrative approval. Approval is conditional on their health and responses to the following questions.

  1. Has he/she show any signs or symptoms of COVID–19 in the last 14 days? 
  2. Has he/she been tested for COVID–19? When? Results?
  3. Has anyone in the household been tested for COVID–19? When? Results?
  4. Has he/she or anyone in the household been advised by a health care professional to self–quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19? When?
  5. Has he/she been exposed or suspected to be exposed to anyone who showed symptoms of or was COVID–19? Who? When?
  6. Has he/she traveled out of state in the last fourteen days? When? Where? How Long?
  7. Does he/she have contact with people at higher risk for infection, especially those who are 60 years and older, with respiratory and/or severely weakened immune system issues?

ŸAnyone tested positive for COVID–19 and exhibiting symptoms:

If anyone shows signs of illness, they will be encouraged to wear a mask and strictly follow the social distancing guidelines. Typically, the person can be around others after:

  • 10 days since symptoms first appeared and
  • 24 hours with no fever without fever–reducing medications and
  • Other COVID–19 symptoms are improving. Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation

People who are severely ill with COVID–19 might need to stay home longer than 10 days and up to 20 days after symptoms first appeared. Persons who are severely immunocompromised may require testing to determine when they can be around others. Seek healthcare provider assistance.

Anyone tested positive for COVID–19 but having no symptoms:

If people continue to have no symptoms, they can be with others after 10 days have passed since the person had a positive viral test for COVID–19.

Anyone who has had close contact with someone with COVID–19 should stay home for 14 days after their last exposure to that person:

Anyone who has had close contact with someone with COVID–19 and who meets the following criteria does NOT need to stay home.

  • Has COVID–19 illness within the previous 3 months and
  • Has recovered and
  • Remains without COVID–19 symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath)

Anyone who may be asymptomatic and pre–symptomatic COVID–19:

Protect yourself and others by wearing face coverings, practice good hand washing, follow universal precautions, and avoid touching nose, mouth, and eyes.

Reference: CDC Return to Work Criteria and Guidelines, September 11, 2020 and August 10, 2020, respectively and

Tiered Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

For a printable PDF version of this document, click here.

The COVID–19 pandemic and public health emergency have shaped the way we do things and required us to examine our social practices, community consciousness, and the way we provide services in the home, community, and center–based settings. It’s unknown when a COVID–19 vaccine will be available, local and state social distancing orders will be lifted, and re–entry criteria will be established; however, the company will continue to practice good universal precautionary actions, handwashing, follow CDC guidelines and recommendations, and adhere to the following re–entry matrix, criteria and guidelines. Our predominate drive is to keep everyone safe, healthy, and well, while doing what we can to see a containment or downward turn of COVID–19 confirmed cases.

Tier I

We will protect ourselves and others from exposure to disease causing organisms such as tuberculosis, pertussis, shigellosis, streptococcal, conjunctivitis, chicken pox, head lice and scabies, influenza, bronchitis, & COVID–19, with everyday preventive actions.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol–based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Open windows to enhance fresh airflow and ventilation.
  • Be vigilant on keeping yourself and others safe, healthy, and protected from respiratory illnesses.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Contaminated surfaces can transmit the influenza virus for 24 hours.
  • Following company’s Operational Policies and Procedures on Communicable Disease.

The company will monitor, obtain, and furnish disinfectant and hand sanitation supplies for staff and Medicaid participants to use. The dispensers and hand washing stations are readily available.

If people are sick, to keep from spreading respiratory illness to others, they will:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze into your elbow (as per CDC cough etiquette) or with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Tier II

The company will heighten its efforts to protect ourselves and others from respiratory illness with the supplemental preventive actions.

  • GSDC will monitor for every person entering the work site. Those attempting to enter the building are required to report to a company representative. The person entering the work site should not exhibit symptoms of a respiratory illness or fever. If the individual’s response is that they are experiencing symptoms, they will be restricted from entering the site.
  • If you must meet face–to–face, use the largest available conference room. Larger rooms have better ventilation. There is more room to spread out.
  • Small groups are better than big groups because it reduces the risk of exposure.
  • Wearing masks are encouraged, but not required for staff [covering nose and mouth, breathing without restrictions and launder and machine dried without damage] when engaging with others, where social distancing [three feet or less] may be difficult.
  • Deep–cleaning and disinfecting frequently efforts in high–traffic, high–volume areas. Those assisting with cleaning areas will receive direct instruction on proper cleaning and disinfecting procedures. Communal areas such as dayrooms, restrooms and offices are cleaned at a minimum of once per day and more if needed. Disinfecting frequency has been increased, including regular disinfecting of touchpoints (telephones, doorknobs, desk areas, etc.). All cleaning practices will allow for physical distancing of staff.
  • Medicaid participants will be encouraged to wear masks [face covering] at places open to the public; however, direct support professionals will keep Medicaid participants safe by postponing access to public places when the Medicaid participants’ tolerance or use of facial masks could result in harm.
  • Face coverings may not be advantageous outdoors, unless contact with others are inevitable.
  • Face coverings should not be worn while driving vehicles.

Tier III

The company will enhance its precautions by adding these additional measures and actions.

  • Wearing masks are encouraged, but not required for staff [covering nose and mouth, breathing without restrictions and launder and machine dried without damage] when engaging with others, where social distancing [six feet] may be difficult.
  • Medicaid participants will be encouraged to wear masks, but not required [face covering] at places open to the public. However, direct support professionals will keep Medicaid participants safe by postponing access to public places when the Medicaid participants cannot tolerate or use of facial masks to keep them from harm.
  • Face coverings may not be advantageous outdoors, unless contact with others are enviable.
  • Face coverings should not be worn while driving vehicles.
  • Avoid handshakes. Handshaking as a customary greeting enables virus transmission through skin–to–skin contact. Substitute something else — smile, wave, or bump elbows.
  • Avoid the lunchroom rush. Whether you eat lunch in the designed area, avoid the rush. Eat earlier, later, or eat with just a few people in a quiet area, inside or out.
  • Avoid the commuter rush periods. When non–emergent transportation providers arrive, take advantage of available spacing to avoid exposure to crowds.
  • Substitute tele–meetings for face–to–face meetings. Reducing the number or duration of face–to–face meetings reduce the opportunity for virus transmission. Shift as much of the agenda as possible to email or teleconference.
  • Social distancing of six feet or more. People who are less than six feet away from an infected person more, especially for those with greatest risk of infection. Those with greater risk will be asked to stay home.
  • If you have traveled from an affected area, there may be restrictions on your movements for up to fourteen days. If you develop symptoms during that period (fever, cough, trouble breathing, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and a loss of taste or smell), seek medical advice. The individual will self–quarantined for 14 days.
  • Suspend intake, reducing the density in congregate settings, screening of all those entering the facility, have masks and hand sanitizer available to all staff and population, and suspending in–person visiting and volunteering.
  • Strictly following the social distancing guidelines and spacing individuals to minimize cluster groups by limiting to gatherings of fewer than 10 people.
  • Establish and limit room capacity to adhere to social–distancing guidelines.
  • Volunteers will not be permitted to enter the facility until further notice.

Tier IV

Company institutes company–wide partial furloughs or layoffs due to federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID–19. Enough workforce remains to provide services to Medicaid participants; however, not all Medicaid participants may not be able to access supports and services. The company may implemented a mandatory 14–day stay–at–home order and self–quarantine certain employees and Medicaid participants to ensure recovery and signs and symptoms of COVID–19 are absent.

  • Wearing masks are required [covering nose and mouth, breathing without restrictions and launder and machine dried without damage] when engaging with others, social distancing will be strictly enforced. When social distancing cannot occur with certain Medicaid participants, services will be temporary discontinued to said participant.
  • Medicaid participants will wear masks [face covering] at places open to the public; however, when the Medicaid participants cannot tolerate facial masks, services will be temporary discontinued to the said participant.
  • Face coverings will be used for all on and off–site activities.

Tier V

Company temporary closes and discontinues to offer and provide services. The company may institute company–wide furloughs or layoffs due to federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation orders related to COVID–19 or existing workforce is unavailable, due to having symptoms or quarantined related to COVID–19, to provide services to Medicaid participants. Administration will monitor federal, state, or local activities and general workforce condition to determine the best course of action.