Car Seats for Kids with Special Needs

Car Seat Basics

Finding the right car seat and using it correctly seems difficult enough for most people, especially when car seat guidelines seem to keep changing, but your child may need a specially made child restraint system if he has certain medical conditions.

These medical conditions might include having a tracheostomy (breathing tube inserted into the neck); decreased muscle tone; recent surgical repair of myelomeningocele (a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close); being in a spica hip cast or body cast; or even behavior problems that lead a child to repeatedly unbuckle a car seat's harness straps.

Although you won't find these special car seats in popular department stores, they are readily available if you need them.

Car seats for children with special needs, such as cerebral palsy, autism, or spinal cord problems, include:

  • 2400 Spirit™ Adjustable Positioning System™ (APS™) Car Seat, by Columbia Medical. A forward-facing car seat that is designed for special needs children between 25-130lbs., and up to 66 inches in height.
    Manufacturer's Site
  • 2500 Integrated Positioning System (IPS) Car Seat, by Columbia Medical. It is a forward-facing car seat that is designed for special needs children weighing 40 - 130 pounds and who are between 54 - 66 inches in height.
    Manufacturer's Site
  • Buckle Guard -- A simple device that can keep your child from unbuckling his car seat's harness straps
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  • E-Z On Adjustable Vest, which is used with an E-Z-On Adjustable Vest Floor Mount or Tether Strap Mount, is good for special needs kids who try to get out of their car seats and unbuckle harness straps.
    Vendor's Site
  • E-Z On Modified Vest allows you to secure your child into the car, even if he needs to lie down when riding in the car due to a body cast, long leg cast, spinal injury, etc.
    Vendor's Site
  • Special Tomato Car Seat is available in different sizes for children of all ages and includes modular seating cushions to help support your child in her car seat (helpful if she has decreased muscle tone) and make sure she is comfortable.
    Vendor's Site
  • Carrie Car Seats are good for children with decreased muscle tone.
  • Recaro Start Plus Car Seat is a forward-facing car seat for children with special needs, including children with mild to moderate physical disabilities who need extra postural support.

    If you need help finding a car seat for your special needs child, a special needs car seat technician may also be helpful.



    AAP Policy Statement. Transporting Children With Special Health Care Needs. PEDIATRICS Vol. 104 No. 4 October 1999, pp. 988-992. 

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