All children need to be safe and secure when riding in an automobile. While some children with special needs can ride safely in standard car seats, some special needs children have disabilities that require specially designed car seats. There are many different car seats available for children with different types of special needs. To select the right one, you must consider your child's specific abilities and disabilities.
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Consult with your pediatrician. Your doctor can give you guidelines about how to best protect you child when traveling in a car. Some special needs children have special positioning restrictions.
Choose a car seat that allows additional accessories to be added. The ability to adapt a car seat to your child's positioning needs will make it safer and last longer as your child's needs change.
Ask your physical therapist or occupational therapist to recommend a car seat or a manufacturer that they trust. Your child's therapist is an excellent resource because therapists are very familiar with the limitations of their patients.
Select a car seat with an adjustable headrest. Some children will benefit from this because of difficulty holding their heads up or weakened musculature. Other will benefit while sleeping.
Buy a car seat with thick, firm padding to keep your child's joints supported on long car trips. Soft padding may not provide enough posture support.
Select a car seat with a removable and washable cover for easy clean up after accidents and ordinary wear.
Tips and warnings
- All car seats should have a label stating that it meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Check for this before you buy.
- Help mitigate the large expense of special needs car seats by checking with your insurance for coverage. Even Medicaid provides coverage for these restraints in some cases.
- If your child gets a hip spica cast or another cast that prevents sitting properly, you will have to get a special needs car seat. Even though a cast is temporary, the only way to comply with the law and keep your child safe is to purchase a specially designed restraint.
- Don't select a car seat that has a tray or a shield if your baby is premature, has low birth weight or has a tracheostomy. Should you have a crash, the tray can injure the child's neck.
- Don't do after market changes to your child's car seat to make it fit better. The changes will not have been crash tested and they can damage the safety of the seat.
- Follow weight and height recommendations for your car seat. When your child exceeds those recommendations, buy a new seat that fits properly.