For the last 20 years I've been helping special needs families get more education for their children. I'm also a special needs sibling, my brother is 38 with Down syndrome. This means I can see the special needs community from many different angles. I'm often asked by parents "What school district would your recommend if you could move anywhere"? That's a loaded question because special needs families need more than just schools. There are some very important concerns that you do NOT want to overlook as a special needs family. While you are looking at homes that fit your budget, distance to your favorite stores and more, it's CRITICAL you take your "special needs checklist" to your real estate agent and let them know you don't even want to look at a house until it passes the test. The Special Needs Family Home Buying Checklist: 1. Medical Care: This one seems pretty obvious, but you need to make sure that you have access to all of the medical care that you need or might need. I recently moved across the state and although my daughter has been healthy for 7 years and hasn't needed a hospital, I made sure there were two within 15 minutes of me and I can get to the downtown children speciality hospital in under an hour in an ambulance if needed. I looked at non-critical care too! Our wellness care is taken care of through an awesome chiropractic office that not only keeps us well, but the doctors that work there would support us through making good decisions in a crisis too. 2. Recreation Accessibility: Do you need sidewalks in your neighborhood? Are the parks easy for your child to access? I grew up coaching Special Olympics and the memories and bond I have with my brother and his friends are priceless. Check out the Special Recreation programs in your potential town and even go see a class or Special Olympic competition. If your child can participate in the mainstream programs, it's nice to know that special recreation programs are there to support if necessary. 3. Special Needs Families in the Area: When I relocated this past summer, it was important for me to go where I knew that I could be successful as a mom, as a Special Education advocate/speaker and that I would have the support if I ever need to bring my brother to this area to live. I needed like-minded families around me who I could collaborate with professionally and personally. Even just moving across the state has given me a completely different vibe in our lifestyle and it's not even based on money. It's based on the community and the resources and families that are already established here. Special Needs support groups that meet in person are far and few between with Facebook creating all of our connections, but you never know what you might find in an active special needs community. 4. Adult Special Needs Services: Even if your child is in elementary school and you may move again before your child reaches adulthood, scoping out the adult disability services can tell you a lot about the area. Communities that have adult disability services are typically established with transportation, job support and a more accepting attitude of special needs families. Communities that lack support for adult with disabilities, also tend to lack support for school years too. 5. Safety: I know this seems obvious, but please check the sex offenders list and you can check online for the local police reports for break ins. Also, check for the stability of a neighborhood. Lots of people moving in/out in recent months is not a good sign. 6. Schools: There's no way to know exactly how special education programming will work for your child in any district, but the more resources available the better. Is the district part of a co-op? Do they collaborate with other districts? Are there therapeutic day schools in the area, if needed? Go to the school admin building and ask to speak with the special education coordinator so you can get a feel of the different programs that are available. These simple steps will make you confident with your relocation and that you are making the best decisions possible for your special needs families. Take this checklist with you when you are getting ready to home shop. It will save you time and headaches! Happy Moving! With Hope & Determination, Catherine Whitcher, M.Ed P.S. Did you know that your new school has to provide you with the same or better IEP services? Get your child's IEP ready for your move by joining the Special Needs Education Help Center today!