Special Needs Car Seats: Overview Based on Age and Behavioral Needs

Picking out a car seat is a challenging task for any parent. Car safety can be even more complicated, though, if your child has special needs. This causes the standard off-the-shelf seat options to not meet their specific needs.

If your child requires extra support or other accommodations, what should you do to keep them safe?

In this article, we’ll take some time to look at common reasons you may want to use an adaptive car seat system. There are a variety of situations that might prompt you to look for a particular car seat.

Make sure to consider your child’s specific needs when making this decision.

Non-car Seat Options

Throughout this article, we’ll refer to several items which might replace a car seat for your child, depending on the situation. In case you are not familiar already:

  • Car bed: a specialized device that allows your child to lie flat as they ride in the car.
  • Specialized medical seat: a specific medical product that you and your doctor will select to meet your child’s particular needs.
  • Modified vest: a vest that your child wears to help keep them in the correct position while riding in the car. May also help those with sensory issues or those who like to unbuckle their seat belts.

Children Less Than 2 Years Olds

Since it is now required in most states for children under the age of 2 to remain in rear-facing car seats, manufacturers have modified them to accommodate children of larger sizes. As these seats are made for newborns as well, there is usually enough support for children with special needs as well.

For those with weak neck and trunk muscles, it’s best to keep them in the rear-facing seats for as long as they are able.

Children Over The Age of Two

Once your child is now able to be transitioned to a forward-facing car seat, those with minor disabilities may be able to utilize standard front-facing seats that can accommodate a higher weight limit.

For children with more significant needs, a more specialized car seat with positioning features that provide support for the head and neck, trunk, and even legs may be required.

Children Greater than 4 Years Old

For those with mild to moderate disabilities and with the ability to sit up on their own may be able to use most traditional booster seats with a 5-point harness.

Several of these brands, including The Special Tomato MPS Car Seat, the Carrie Seating System and Carrot by Convaid can be used in airplanes as well (what a great feature)!

Behavioral Needs

Next, let’s look at some other reasons that may contribute to your child needing special seating in the car.

Tamper Proof Vests

Children with sensory or behavioral issues may be more prone to try to unbuckle or loosen their harness while they sit in the car. This can happen for several reasons and may be a phase your child goes through at certain stages of development.

If this problem is severe enough, you may benefit from using an adaptive seat system that prevents your child from tampering with the harness.

One example is the Ride Safer Delight Travel Vest. These are available on Amazon. However, since it is tamper-proof, it may take a lot of practice to get the hang of it. Make sure to take your time and practice before using this vest; it may feel a bit adult-proof at first!

Improving the Drive Experience

When considering a product like this, you might want to think about controlling the sensory experience of riding in the car for your child. Sometimes issues like this can be made worse if the child feels stress by the process of strapping in.

Try to make that process as soothing as possible, and look for seats or even window accessories that allow you to block out light and sound once your child is inside, making them less stimulated during the car ride.

Using the Correct Restraints

Children on the autism spectrum might have apparent behavioral needs in the car. The focus may need to be on a seat that has harness points the child cannot accidentally undo.

Your child may not understand the danger of letting themselves unrestrained in the car. So, it’s even more important to use the correct restraint for your child.

Weighted Vests

Some children with sensory issues will prefer a much tighter strap tension. If this is an issue for your child, try a special weighted vest that your child can wear in the car. This will help provide the pressure they prefer without putting themselves in danger due to an overly tight seatbelt.

Always Consult With Your Pediatrician

If your child needs a specialized seating system in the car, always discuss your options with your pediatrician. You will want to know what types of safety features your specific child requires to make the best decision on what car seat is best for your child.

Picking out the seat you’ll use to keep your child safe is an important decision. Even after you’ve settled on an option, it is important to pay close attention to how your child feels while they’re in the seat.

Double-check the return or exchange policies before purchasing as well. This will help in case the particular brand you thought would work ideally, isn’t. The right seating plan will help your child feel their best while in the car. This allows for calm, safe trips for years to come.