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How To Choose the Best Car Seat

By Katie Bergeron Peglow, PT, MS

With so many special needs car seat options available, finding the best one can be an overwhelming task. Here are some terms you will need to understand as you get started.

Integrated 5-Point Harness: A special needs car seat with an integrated 5-point harness offers positioning support to the pelvis and trunk for individuals. Some of these special needs car seats, like the Special Tomato MPS Car Seat, are developed to keep individuals secure that are outside of the law parameters for height and weight that require this type of harness for children. Most special needs car seats with an integrated 5-point harness are made for the forward-facing position only. With an integrated 5-point harness, the special needs car seat is secured to the vehicle using the lap/shoulder belt within the vehicle. Often a top tether anchor is also required. The integrated 5-point harness then secures the individual to the special needs car seat.

Booster Seat: A special needs booster seat for the vehicle requires that both the individual and the booster seat be secured to the vehicle with the vehicle’s lap/shoulder belt. There are models of special needs booster seats that provide a harness for positioning purposes only like the Thomashilfen Recaro Monza Reha.

Specialty: Another type of special needs car seats is the specialty category. The Cosco® Dream Ride LATCH Infant Car Bed was designed to safely transport premature infants up to nine pounds. The Inspired by Drive Spirit Spica Cast Car Seat is designed specifically for children that have a Spica Cast that immobilizes the hips and thighs so that positioning in a traditional car seat is not safe.

It is always important to order a special needs car seat to fit your child now. However, you also want to make sure that there will be years of growth available in the special needs equipment that you purchase.

The first thing to note is the law requirements for your child. This will determine whether or not a car seat or a booster seat can be used. Your child's most important measurements for fitting most special needs car seats are:

    • Hip Width- corresponds with seat width of the special needs car seat or booster seat

    • Chest Width - corresponds with seat back width in between trunk laterals (if offered) for the special needs car seat or booster seat

    • Shoulder Width- corresponds with seat back width of the special needs car seat or booster seat

    • Seat to Top of Head - corresponds with height of the seat back on the special needs car seat or booster seat

    • Seat to Top of Shoulders - corresponds with height of the shoulder straps for the 5-point harness system (if available) for the special needs car seat or booster seat

    • Thigh Depth - corresponds to the seat depth of the special needs car seat or booster seat

    • Foot to Back of Knee - corresponds to the footrest to seat height (if offered) for the special needs car seat or booster seat

    • Weight- corresponds with the maximum weight capacity of the special needs car seat or booster seat

Our therapists can help you with a proper fit… to start please click SIZING HELP and complete a simple form.

Special needs car seats and booster seats offer extra support to help the user maintain a sitting position. The amount of support can be customized by adding different accessories for the areas of the body that need assistance. To view the available accessories for each item, click on the "Accessories" Tab. Some of the most common areas that require positioning accessories are: head, trunk, pelvis, and feet.

Typically "Bells + Whistles" on special needs car seats or booster seats add to the user’s and the caregiver’s experience.

A Tray provides a soft, comfortable surface for your child to use for arm support, like on the Thomashilfen Harmony Defender Reha.

An optional Swivel Base on the Thomashilfen Recaro Monza Reha allows the car seat to turn towards the door of the car for easier access. This is great for working on more independence with individuals that can do a stand-pivot transfer. It also provides more direct access to the car seat for the caregiver that has to do a dependent transfer into the car seat.

Many other "Bells + Whistles" are often available. Click on the "Accessories" Tab on the item page to view all of the offerings for each item.

Please feel free to or call us toll free at (800) 371-2778 with any questions that you may have about finding the best special needs walker or gait trainer choice for you and your child. We are here to help you!