Moving Back to Iceland

Moving Back to Iceland

For those of you who do not know, we currently live in Denmark where my husband and I are working on our graduate degrees. We moved here in the summer of 2010 and our original plan was to live here for a few years and not only finish our degrees but also gain some work experience in a foreign country. However, when the news of our son’s autism diagnosis struck, everything changed and suddenly our future plans were up in the air.

At first, we were relieved to be living in Denmark as it has a reputation of a superb social system. Further, news from Iceland weren’t the most positive as the nation was still suffering from the financial crisis that famously hit Iceland with more force than most other countries. People were talking about huge cuts in the Icelandic public health care system as well as the educational system, something that didn’t sound too promising for us to move back to at this point. However, we missed our families and friends in Iceland terribly and wanted nothing more than to move back to Iceland to be closer to them and have easier access to their love and support but we still had one year left of our studies and it was not an option to quit.

As the weeks and months went by and we got a deeper understanding of the service available for autistic children in Denmark as well as familiarizing ourselves with what was offered in Iceland, we began to realize the quality of service in Iceland. In Denmark, parents of autistic children are recommended to apply for certain kindergartens that are in every way like any other kindergarten except that they have an extra department called ‘basis-gruppe‘, consisting of a small group of children (usually 6) that all have an autism diagnosis and this group of children is supported by 3 or 4 play school teachers. As there are very few children per employee, this is a rather supportive system that evolves around the method of TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-Handicapped Children). However, there is a waiting list for such institutions and the maximum extra support available for children that go to normal kindergartens is 16 hours per week. After our older son, JA, got diagnosed he only got 7 hours per week in support!

In Iceland, the system is rather different. There are no special institutions for children with autism at the kindergarten level. If suspicion arises that a child may have autism, it is sent to a pre-diagnosis and after that it has the possibility of up to 4 hours per day of one-on-one support. After getting a “proper” autism diagnosis, all children have the right to the minimum of 7 hours per day of one-on-one support. Further, you can choose between the methods of TEACCH and ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis), the latter being something that we are very interested in but is not an available method in Denmark.

Admittedly, the Icelandic way sounded more appealing to us. As our son has highly functioning autism, we did not see it as a necessity to remove him from his “normal” kindergarten, where he already had a few good friends and had developed a strong relationship with some of the staff – but he’d only gotten 7 hours of extra support through the Danish social system and that wouldn’t change unless he’d get a spot at a special institution.

But the support system wasn’t the only reason we were seriously thinking about moving back to Iceland. Firstly, both our sons (but particularly our younger one, V) have had problems in linguistic development, something very common for children with ASD. Having them struggle with a second language was surely not helping them and moving back to Iceland would mean that everyone around them would be speaking their mother language day in and day out and then they could just focus on that. Secondly, then we would have all of our closest friends and family around us, something not only good for the boys but also for my husband and I.

After contemplating for a short while, we made the decision to move back to Iceland at the end of next summer (2012) after finishing our graduate degrees. It was a tremendous relief and joy that followed the decision and we are looking so much forward to moving back home.



28 responses »

    • Of course you’re right my darling Unna. Fortunately, we’ve been lucky enough to meet new friends in Denmark who’ve been there for us through thick and thin (you and your beautiful family among them), something we’ll always be thankful for. But all in all, our main support system remains in Iceland.

      Unna, you’ll just have to join in and move back to Iceland with us honey boney ;)

  1. Algjörlega frábært blogg hjá þér Ragga, það á örugglega eftir að koma einhverjum fjölskyldum til hjálpar sem standa í svipuðum sporum.

  2. Dear Ragga Just quickly because I´m rushing. I have found the help here in Reykjavik excellent It has been wonderful both actual time and service and the warmth and kindness of EVERY person in each institution we have a huge range of help for both boys they have full support in school and afterschool in the frístudaheimili, we have support families for both of them and someone else to take them out sometimes at the weekend for extra activities, they get physio, special swimming lessons with one to one help, speech therapy and when I got really worn out the city sent people to help clean each week, I think there are cuts but these are more of a problem for kids who are not diagnosed, come back it is great here . I am taking my NT daughter to a course for siblings of kids with autism this week …. ok best wishes Louise and I think ABA is great and didn´t think TEAcch so good for mine…..

    • How amazingly encouraging Louise, thank you!

      I am actually going to Iceland for a short visit later in March to look at some kindergartens and schools as to help us decide where we want to pin ourselves down as we aim to find a solid place and stay there for as long as our boys are in kindergarten/school (given that we’ll be satisfied with the service). So if you (or anyone else) has any advice in that regard I would appreciate it so much.

      • My kids went to Laugaborg which was great but has now all changed they are now in Laugarnesskóli which is wonderful, excellent head and staff very caring and dedicated I would be very happy to meet and chat if you would like but I think you need to visit the schools and talk to the headteachers, see what they can offer, I have a slight idea thet reykjavik might be better than the suburbs but no real proof …. Will they need to go to GGR to be rediagnosed the diagnosis very much decides the funding and supports the school in providing the staff ….
        Anyway let me know if you have any other questions , Louise

        • Thank you Louise. This is very helpful. I will definitely contact these two institutions to see if I can meet with them during the trip.

          Unfortunately it’s a rather short visit so I doubt that I’ll find the time to meet but I would love to chat a bit more about these things via Facebook or email so if you want you can find me on Facebook and send me a message and then we can be in touch…?

          Regarding the diagnosis, I’ve already talked to Greiningarstöðin and apparently the Danish diagnosis is valid and no need for further data. The boys will automatically fall directly under everything the social system can offer.

    • Thank you.
      …we’re also trying to remember to enjoy the time that we have left in Denmark, it is after all still 6 months until we’ll be moving and there are loads of great things (and friends) that we’ll be leaving behind.

  3. Can´t wait for my dear friends to move back. We have been missing you all so much. Andrea is always talking about JA and his move back to Iceland. Laugaborg and Lækjaborg are now one unit: Laugasól and Andrea and Birgir Rafn are both there:) HINT HINT to move to our neighbourhood:)

    • We miss you too! And actually, we’ve been hearing a lot of good stuff from your neighborhood so if we would decide to move there, you promise not to move away!?! ;)

  4. One of my good friends from college has two sons, who have both been diagnosed with autism. The oldest one (9 years old) was diagnosed a number of years back and the youngest (about 4, if I remember correctly), was diagnosed just last year. If you are interested in communicating with her, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with her. It might be nice to talk to someone who’s going through the same thing!

    • I would love to! Thank you.
      You can either send me a message via Facebook or an e-mail to myfamilyandautism(at) by putting @ instead of (at)

  5. Þetta er frábært blogg hjá þér Ragga mín, svo vel skrifað og einlæg og ég hef getað séð sjálfa mig speglast í svoooo mörgu sem þú hefur skrifað. Strákarnir heppnir að eiga svona foreldra! Frábært að þið séuð líka búin að taka ákvörðun um að koma heim, það verður yndislegt fyrir ykkur fjölskylduna. Svo heimta ég einn kaffibolla í haust :-)

    • Takk fyrir það Edda Karen. Mikið gleður mig að heyra að þú samsamir þig með þessu. Og það er sko ekki nokkur spurning með kaffibollann ;)

  6. Elsku Ragga og Júlíus.

    Ég er búin að lesa allt bloggið og dáist að því hvað þið hafið verið dugleg á erfiðum tímum. Gott hjá þér Ragga að blogga um strákana og ykkur sjálf og greiningarferlið. Maður skynjar betur hvað þið hafið verið að ganga í gegnum með litlu angana ykkar og mér verður oft hugsað til ykkar.
    Bloggið hjálpar örugglega mörgum. Það sem er mikilvægt er að það færir ekki þér styrk að geta skrifað um málið og hjálpar þeim sem standa í sömu sporum og þið. Þá eru aðrir sem hafa reynslu sem getað miðlað áfram sinni upplifun. Eitt er ljóst að þegar maður verður fyrir áföllum þá er mikilvægt að vinna sig út úr þeim og horfa á jákvæðu hliðina, þó svo að oft á tíðum geti það verið erfitt. Knús á ykkur öll og sendum góða strauma fyrir hafið. Hlökkum til að sjá ykkur í mars ef ekki þá þá sjáumst við í sumar!! :)
    Hulda og co.

  7. I have finally got into to comment on one of my passionate subjects. Being a carer of an autistic child myself, Which all came about by a series of unusual twists and turns. Being a demolition contractor by trade. I never expected my life to turn out like this, but would not change a day of it now. Jordan is now fourteen years old and we have had him since he was a few months old. And what a journey it has been. We are pretty much a happy go lucky pair and the recent downturn has meant lots of trips to places like Bronte country and the Haworth railway to name but a few. I am a bit stuck for time today so I will be back later to keep up to speed with your blog. xoxo

  8. Pingback: Choosing Schools for Autistic Children « Family and Autism

  9. Pingback: Happy New Year! « Family and Autism

  10. You mean to tell me that ABA is therapy is available through the public school system in your country? I would LOVE to know more about this. I have a child with a diagnosis of Autism.

  11. I work as a sensory planner to serve people with AUTISM for last 6 years.Could you please help me out for any professional development course in iceland,as a notice its one of the unique country where i will learn some innovative thing.

  12. Thank you for sharing this story!

    I am so happy to hear that settling in Iceland has made a positive change for your children. I am a student from Canada, and I was looking to volunteer in Reykjavik at a special needs school this summer. I would love to be another staff member part of the education team. I was wondering if you know any places where they offer special needs education? That would be great help.



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