Author Topic: Relocating with ASD kids  (Read 1343 times)

Morning Glory

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Relocating with ASD kids
« on: July 31, 2021, 05:33:55 PM »
TLDR: anyone know of a town/city in the US that has good publicly funded programs for kids with special needs (specifically autism, in my case), is not too expensive, and not too cold?

Background:
I have two wonderful boys who are both on the autism spectrum. Oldest is entering first grade and is likely to turn out high functioning (what they used to call Asperger's). He is currently in a specialized ASD program at the public elementary school where he also receives OT and speech therapy. It's too early to tell with the youngest but school and doctor both think he is a little more severely affected.  Where we live now he gets free special ed preschool through the school district, which includes transportation. The neurospsychiatrist also recommended ABA therapy for him. He's on the waiting list for that here. We recently met with the county social worker and are in the process of setting up secondary Medicaid for him. Our parental fee will be $0 at our income level. We were told also might qualify for other services such as adaptive recreation and respite care. I am hoping to relocate to somewhere with a similar level of services. After last year I know that my spouse and I absolutely cannot handle homeschooling these two (this might change as they get older) and we need outside support.

My employment contract and apartment lease both end in December and I have officially joined the 2021 FIRE cohort. I'm in the northern part of the Midwest and am really tired of the cold dark winters. Friends and family have been leaving in droves lately, so there is not much keeping us here. Cost of living is getting higher (I know it may seem low to you coastal folks, but I want to be able to live comfortably on 40K/year). State taxes are high but I feel like we get good services in return; that being said I've done traditional everything so a lower state income tax would benefit me for Roth conversion purposes. 

I've looked at North Carolina and eastern Tennessee as possible FIRE destinations because of a nice balance between good weather and low cost of living, plus so many great opportunities for outdoor activities (and my mom has talked about moving to Tennessee when she retires). My plan for medical insurance is adults on ACA (no premium after subsidies with our projected FIRE spending) and kids on CHIPs. I am not averse to Medicaid, but just would not qualify in any of the southeastern states since they have really low income cutoffs. NC has some of the best ACA plans and TN has no state income tax. I know very little about specific towns but have visited Knoxville and Chattanooga in TN and Asheville in NC and they all look like they would be really nice places to live (Asheville is maybe too expensive but there are other cities in NC on my list of places to check out that I just haven't made it to yet).  I could go just about anywhere.

Google gave me a list of states which are "best" and "worst" for kids with autism.  My current state is neither best nor worst, but the ones I'm looking at are all in the ten "worst". The ten "best" all have cold winters.  I think there is probably more variation between cities within a state than between the states themselves, but it is hard to find this information since it's so subjective.  I know its because in much of the US schools are funded by property taxes (not the case where I'm at now) so McMansiony suburbs tend to have better ones, which is not fair.  I know very little about what services are available in different areas of the US other than horror stories about school to prison pipelines (this is maybe my own bias against "red" states). I do not want to live in a McMansion, but I also don't want to do my kids a disservice by moving. 

I know they are young enough that I could just move again if I don't like the school. Just hoping to learn from others' experience here.


ilsy

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Re: Relocating with ASD kids
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2021, 07:00:14 PM »
Hi,
I think you won't get much relevant response here, but who knows. In my opinion, it's better to ask this question on groups that have a lot of traffic of parents with special needs kids, like Facebook groups. I personally like 'Raising Poppies' - get a lot of support and useful info there, and also the feeling that I'm not alone dealing with this. And I'm pretty sure I've seen this question pop up there.

I live in a state with winter, not sure what is considered a 'cold' winter - just a regular Midwestern winter. And we also have very high income and property taxes, so my state won't qualify probably, it's a typical McMansiony surburb. But it seems logical to me that states with higher taxes should have better programs. I could be wrong, I haven't done my research for that, didn't really think about leaving the state while the kids are still dependents - divorce decree.

And I should probably take notes from you, I don't have my kids hooked up with a lot of services, maybe I should have. But it's hard to know things you don't know are available. My DS is 12 and he got diagnosed with HFA when he was 3, so he qualified for a lot of school services at the beginning - I can't name all of them now, don't remember. I think the school did a great job, but I don't have any point of reference to compare. It could have been better in other states, or could have been worse. I'm very happy with the progress and were we stand right now.


Morning Glory

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Re: Relocating with ASD kids
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2021, 08:05:07 PM »
@ilsy thanks. This is my go-to place to ask anything I can't find out from a quick Google search, and I know there are folks here who have lived everywhere. I can look up the raising poppies group. I looked at city data forums a little bit too and there weren't too many posts about asd specifically.

I have seasonal depression that seems to get worse every year, so that he 4pm dark time bothers me more than the actual cold. I would like to be done with sub zero temps and -40 windchills but I'm ok with 20-30f. None of us are very good with really hot temperature either, but we have more flexibility to travel in the summer months so I'm looking for somewhere that's between 20-85F from September-May and not too dark. I was thinking the Appalachian mountains would be nice for hiking and because it's not as humid there. Everyone's mood/behavior issues are better on days that we can do something outside!

Sibley

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Re: Relocating with ASD kids
« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2021, 08:23:42 PM »
I would be cautious with any heavily red states, because it seems in line with what the GOP has been doing lately to cut funding for special ed and related supportive services. Also, while you may not like winter, take a look at what's happening with all the extreme weather. You couldn't pay me enough to move to the west coast with their fires and drought, the southwest is running out of water, southeast is at higher risk of hurricanes, etc. I mean, look at Texas just the last couple years. The midwest has its weather issues, but it seems more stable at least.

However, if you're in WI or MN, that's very different from any of the states just a little further south. Indiana or Ohio, maybe Michigan? I have no idea what the special ed stuff looks like anywhere though.

You said your family is moving away. Where are they going? Could you follow them? Being near family might be a good thing.

scantee

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Re: Relocating with ASD kids
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2021, 09:25:40 PM »
The states you mention are in the eastern US. Are you open to the west? Colorado and New Mexico seem like possible candidates.

Colorado. Several friends have moved from MN to CO and they all report the winters are much more tolerable. Yes, it snows a lot but the snow melts quickly where they are (Boulder and Denver, mostly). Plus it is much, much less cold in the winter. Cost of living is higher, of course. Being retired gives you an advantage here because you wouldn’t need to be tied to a high-cost area because of a job.

New Mexico. Similarly, friends who haves moved from MN to NM love it. Mostly in Santa Fe but a couple in Albuquerque. Low cost of living. Not quite as hot and humid as the southeastern states. Schools probably not as good as CO generally although I’d be surprised if there were few good districts for SPED.

Agree that if you’ll need to get local insights once you’ve narrowed your search down to a few places. My experience is that bigger districts, even ‘bad’ ones, are better for SPED than smaller ones. They typically just have more offerings, more programming, more options. I too would be wary of moving to a red state at this point in time without really good information about which districts are high-quality. There are certainly good districts for SPED in those states but they’ll be harder to identify as a newcomer. You’ll probably want to rent wherever you end up so that you can move if the education ends up being of low quality.

luchorpan

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Re: Relocating with ASD kids
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2021, 05:22:08 AM »
I think it’s hard to get recs without a hyper-local perspective. But it seems to me there are two issues when it comes to resources for kids with special needs:
1. Do you the parent have the time & energy to advocate for your child to get whatever resources exist? and
2. Does the school have the ability to provide those resources?

With you being FIREd (congrats!) #1 should be solved. You will need to move forward with your demanding part time job of becoming an IEP expert and relationship-builder. Be as involved as possible as a parent volunteer; this will help you (and your children) get tied into the social community. If you do this when they’re in elementary and you don’t move, you increase the chances that they have some friends to help advocate for them in middle and high school and that any “demands” you make on the school are considered fairly. (Source: my brother with ID thrived in elementary, but we moved when he was starting 6th grade and he had a terrible time in middle school. No relationship was pre-established at his middle school by big sisters going through or by parent volunteering so there were no informal supports to help “flesh out”/humanize his IEP.)

Point #2 is harder. Affluent school districts may be your best bet, but I understand wanting to avoid McMansions. You might start narrowing the search by looking for “good” school districts in general in locations that appeal to you, and then try to find perspectives from people who have navigated special education in those districts. You may also find that non-school-affiliated orgs provide good resources, even in red places. Good luck - this a tall task!

Morning Glory

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Re: Relocating with ASD kids
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2021, 04:57:29 PM »
I would be cautious with any heavily red states, because it seems in line with what the GOP has been doing lately to cut funding for special ed and related supportive services. Also, while you may not like winter, take a look at what's happening with all the extreme weather. You couldn't pay me enough to move to the west coast with their fires and drought, the southwest is running out of water, southeast is at higher risk of hurricanes, etc. I mean, look at Texas just the last couple years. The midwest has its weather issues, but it seems more stable at least.

However, if you're in WI or MN, that's very different from any of the states just a little further south. Indiana or Ohio, maybe Michigan? I have no idea what the special ed stuff looks like anywhere though.

You said your family is moving away. Where are they going? Could you follow them? Being near family might be a good thing.

Haha I grew up in Illinois, and I don't really want to go back there.  My mom is still there and talking about moving south when she retires but hasn't selected a location yet. It looks like I'll beat her to it.  My dad is in another country and i haven't physically seen him in five years, but we video chat. Relatives on his side of the family are scattered in several different countries. I have a sibling a two-hour drive from me but I don't know how long he'll stay there; we see him every 2-3 weeks.  I have step siblings in Illlinois but we aren't close. Husband's parents are deceased; he has one sister who lives 30 minutes from us but they don't have a great relationship and we only get together at holidays. His nephew has ASD too, as does one of my first cousins, so I really should have expected this possibility.  Our closest friend recently died, and several others have moved away or are planning to move in the next year, so I don't really have a great social network. 

I agree with you on wanting to avoid fires, droughts, and hurricanes. I like the mountains because it doesn't get so hot in the summer.  I visited some larger cities in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee and they don't seem too 'red" (probably less so than my current city, which is in a "blue" state). I definitely want to avoid small towns though. The one thing that bothered me was the lack of sidewalks in many of the residential areas.

Morning Glory

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Re: Relocating with ASD kids
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2021, 05:10:18 PM »
The states you mention are in the eastern US. Are you open to the west? Colorado and New Mexico seem like possible candidates.

Colorado. Several friends have moved from MN to CO and they all report the winters are much more tolerable. Yes, it snows a lot but the snow melts quickly where they are (Boulder and Denver, mostly). Plus it is much, much less cold in the winter. Cost of living is higher, of course. Being retired gives you an advantage here because you wouldn’t need to be tied to a high-cost area because of a job.

New Mexico. Similarly, friends who haves moved from MN to NM love it. Mostly in Santa Fe but a couple in Albuquerque. Low cost of living. Not quite as hot and humid as the southeastern states. Schools probably not as good as CO generally although I’d be surprised if there were few good districts for SPED.

Agree that if you’ll need to get local insights once you’ve narrowed your search down to a few places. My experience is that bigger districts, even ‘bad’ ones, are better for SPED than smaller ones. They typically just have more offerings, more programming, more options. I too would be wary of moving to a red state at this point in time without really good information about which districts are high-quality. There are certainly good districts for SPED in those states but they’ll be harder to identify as a newcomer. You’ll probably want to rent wherever you end up so that you can move if the education ends up being of low quality.

Yes, I am definitely going to rent for 6 months-1 year before buying anywhere. At this stage it's definitely worth it to pay a little more for flexibility. I also plan to keep my RN license active so that I can get a part time job easily if we find that we need to move somewhere that doesn't quite fit into our FIRE budget.

I had written off Colorado as being too expensive, but I can do some browsing there to see if there are some less-expensive places that are large enough to have good ASD programs in the schools.  I've been there once and I really liked it, and I have a cousin there.  We have a friend in Albuquerque who likes it there too but I'm a bit scared of the really hot summers and water issues.  Likewise for Arizona.  I could look at Utah or eastern Washington maybe?? I've never even been to either of those.

PMG

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Re: Relocating with ASD kids
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2021, 05:19:31 PM »
You might want to join some parenting groups on Facebook from those specific areas. You might be able to get some thoughtful and thorough answers.

Knoxvillemoms.com also has a Facebook page. I don’t remember if they have a group or not. It’s  pretty “whimsical” on the surface but there are real people in the background. At the least they ought to be able to connect you with someone who has experience.

I’ve got a close connection in KY who raised a son with ASD but we’re super rural so likely not helpful.


Morning Glory

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Re: Relocating with ASD kids
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2021, 05:37:26 PM »
I think it’s hard to get recs without a hyper-local perspective. But it seems to me there are two issues when it comes to resources for kids with special needs:
1. Do you the parent have the time & energy to advocate for your child to get whatever resources exist? and
2. Does the school have the ability to provide those resources?

With you being FIREd (congrats!) #1 should be solved. You will need to move forward with your demanding part time job of becoming an IEP expert and relationship-builder. Be as involved as possible as a parent volunteer; this will help you (and your children) get tied into the social community. If you do this when they’re in elementary and you don’t move, you increase the chances that they have some friends to help advocate for them in middle and high school and that any “demands” you make on the school are considered fairly. (Source: my brother with ID thrived in elementary, but we moved when he was starting 6th grade and he had a terrible time in middle school. No relationship was pre-established at his middle school by big sisters going through or by parent volunteering so there were no informal supports to help “flesh out”/humanize his IEP.)

Point #2 is harder. Affluent school districts may be your best bet, but I understand wanting to avoid McMansions. You might start narrowing the search by looking for “good” school districts in general in locations that appeal to you, and then try to find perspectives from people who have navigated special education in those districts. You may also find that non-school-affiliated orgs provide good resources, even in red places. Good luck - this a tall task!

This is really good advice. I will finally have time to be a parent volunteer after I'm done with full-time work, and I think it will help me as well as the kids with integrating into the community and building a social network. I've never had the energy to take on volunteering on top of work, taking care of the house, grad school, etc.

I think maybe a larger school district would be my best bet. Where I'm at now my son is in a special classroom with other ASD kids who all would otherwise go to other schools in the district. A district with one elementary school would not be able to support such a program. 

Covid really messed things up for us as far as getting services, etc. because screenings were delayed and school was distance only for some time. We finally spoke to a medical social worker who put us in touch with resources through the county that I wasn't even aware existed. It seems like a lot of work to get resources in place then move. I was reassured by the school counselor that it's actually easier in a lot of other states, and that IEPs transfer, etc.

Morning Glory

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Re: Relocating with ASD kids
« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2021, 05:43:23 PM »
You might want to join some parenting groups on Facebook from those specific areas. You might be able to get some thoughtful and thorough answers.

Knoxvillemoms.com also has a Facebook page. I don’t remember if they have a group or not. It’s  pretty “whimsical” on the surface but there are real people in the background. At the least they ought to be able to connect you with someone who has experience.

I’ve got a close connection in KY who raised a son with ASD but we’re super rural so likely not helpful.

I will check out Knoxvillemoms.  I think I saw the site when I was browsing for things to do when we were visiting there. The zoo was awesome!!!  My relative with ASD is older than me and lives in New Zealand. My SIL moved from rural IL to here and didn't have any trouble continuing the services her son was already receiving, plus getting more due to increased availability.

My struggle has been delay after delay with getting diagnoses and services set up because of Covid.

MayDay

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Re: Relocating with ASD kids
« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2021, 06:21:45 AM »
We have moved twice with one kid with autism.

Birth-4: born and lived in twin cities of MN. Services seemed good but what did we know. He had full day preschool with bussing, integrated classroom.

4-9: moved to smaller town in Ohio. Same preschool set up, but OH suddenly says "omg this kid needs PT, why wasn't MN providing it? Ends up MN has different standards for PT and it is extremely difficult to get. DS had PT once or twice a week the whole time in OH.

9-13: moved back to MN. Even being from here it was basically a total crapshoot. I asked people extensively and the only helpful info I really got was one specific district to avoid. Once again no PT lol, it just isn't something MN provides. But some other services have been better.

There were other weird regional differences. Ohio doesn't cover neuropsych exams under insurance. You pay OOP. In MN it is fully covered. Stuff like that.

I personally didn't much like Ohio but will say that going from MN to OH the weather was super mild in the Columbus area. Winter was typically not colder than 20-40. Frequent random warm days in winter. Snow staying on the ground was rare so we could hike and bike outside all winter. I was usually planting cold weather crops in the ground at the end of February (peas/carrots). Athens OH might be a good place to look at. But personally we have found it is a huge quality of life issue to be very near a major children's hospital so maybe consider Columbus itself (or suburbs).

One final word, take it or leave it. Many autistic adults consider ABA abusive. We were never offered it so never had to make that decision. But it is something to be aware of. Additionally autistic adults prefer the words "high  or low support needs" vs high or low functioning. If you are interested in that stuff I can connect you with a fb group of autistic adults who were very valuable for me to learn from.

Morning Glory

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Re: Relocating with ASD kids
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2021, 03:16:22 PM »
We have moved twice with one kid with autism.

Birth-4: born and lived in twin cities of MN. Services seemed good but what did we know. He had full day preschool with bussing, integrated classroom.

4-9: moved to smaller town in Ohio. Same preschool set up, but OH suddenly says "omg this kid needs PT, why wasn't MN providing it? Ends up MN has different standards for PT and it is extremely difficult to get. DS had PT once or twice a week the whole time in OH.

9-13: moved back to MN. Even being from here it was basically a total crapshoot. I asked people extensively and the only helpful info I really got was one specific district to avoid. Once again no PT lol, it just isn't something MN provides. But some other services have been better.

There were other weird regional differences. Ohio doesn't cover neuropsych exams under insurance. You pay OOP. In MN it is fully covered. Stuff like that.

I personally didn't much like Ohio but will say that going from MN to OH the weather was super mild in the Columbus area. Winter was typically not colder than 20-40. Frequent random warm days in winter. Snow staying on the ground was rare so we could hike and bike outside all winter. I was usually planting cold weather crops in the ground at the end of February (peas/carrots). Athens OH might be a good place to look at. But personally we have found it is a huge quality of life issue to be very near a major children's hospital so maybe consider Columbus itself (or suburbs).

One final word, take it or leave it. Many autistic adults consider ABA abusive. We were never offered it so never had to make that decision. But it is something to be aware of. Additionally autistic adults prefer the words "high  or low support needs" vs high or low functioning. If you are interested in that stuff I can connect you with a fb group of autistic adults who were very valuable for me to learn from.

Yes, I will be happy to connect with the facebook group, if you can pm me a link. They might be able to tell me which areas in general are more welcoming to neurodiverse people. Where I am now it seems like everyone knows someone with autism so it isn't a big deal.

I did have a thought that I can reach out to the school or county social worker here for this information, because I'm sure they deal with people who move in and out of the district all the time. I mentioned moving last spring when we were making preschool plans for the little one, and I was told that it's actually easier to qualify for services in a lot of other states than it is here.

The weather in the Columbus area sounds ideal. I did spend some summers in Indiana, Kentucky, and upstate New York as a child and those were all nice too, although upstate NY winters are similar to Minnesota's. I've never spent any time in Ohio.

That's interesting about the PT. Ours is covered through the health insurance but we didn't even know our oldest needed it until after we got the neuropsych eval. He's been getting OT and speech at school the whole time, just not PT. Both of my kids have had the testing now. Youngest's went through the insurance no problem; I'm still waiting for my claim to be reprocessed for the oldest because I had switched jobs while we were on the waiting list for the appointment so I didn't have the right referral in place.

On the ABA: it looks like there are a variety of approaches that come under the umbrella of "ABA" and they used to do some things that seem pretty abusive to me too (I hope nobody does electric shocks any more, ffs). The doctor we saw for the neuropsych testing said that it has evolved quite a bit over time, and he thought it would help improve our younger one's communication skills.  He also said that one of the places in town is a bit more "old school" than the others, but also tends to have a shorter waiting list, so to maybe start at that one and then switch to one of the others as soon as we can (we are currently on waiting lists for all 3 places).

It looks like ABA is covered under Medicaid/CHIPs in all 50 states now, so that wouldn't be an issue.  I ran some calculators and even if we move to a state without expanded Medicaid the kids would still be on CHIPs with our projected spend.

chemistk

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Re: Relocating with ASD kids
« Reply #13 on: August 08, 2021, 06:55:16 PM »
I live in PA and while I can't comment on the specifics regarding this, I do know that many of the more popukus counties, especially Central and Eastern counties (Philly + York, Lancaster, Dauphin, Berks) have incredibly robust public education programs for kids with ASD.

My wife's 3 (yes, 3) youngest siblings all have autism and the youngest two (fraternal twins) are rather low functioning. The pubic school district has programs to accommodate them from K-HS (because it's not really the same scale) l. Through Medicaid, they have access to a wide range of supplementary programs like music, speech, and physical therapy, afterschool programs, summer camps, and other outlets specifically for ASD kids.

Moreover, I'd generally peg this region as accommodating - my wife's siblings have eloped numerous times and the police are familiar and respectful of them, helping them to get back home rather than detaining them and reprimaing my in-laws.

As for climate? It's all getting warmer regardless, but we have mild winters where generally it's hovering around 40, plus we're within 4 hours it less of DC, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philly, and NYC.

jpdx

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Re: Relocating with ASD kids
« Reply #14 on: September 22, 2021, 11:54:59 PM »

Morning Glory

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Re: Relocating with ASD kids
« Reply #15 on: September 23, 2021, 08:09:06 AM »
Sounds like you already have a good handle on this, but CHIP income limits vary a lot from state to state. Here's a useful chart that breaks it down by state:

https://www.kff.org/health-reform/state-indicator/medicaid-and-chip-income-eligibility-limits-for-children-as-a-percent-of-the-federal-poverty-level/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Upper%20Income%20Limit%22,%22sort%22:%22desc%22%7D

Thanks, this is really helpful. We still can't decide where to go.

We must come under the "separate CHIP for uninsured children" if adults are on ACA? I was playing with calculators for a few different states with incomes up to 200% FPL and they all said the kids would qualify for CHIP.