All children need to be in a car or booster seat until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall – typically between 8 and 12 years old. There are some situations where your child may need a special needs car seat, such as:
If they have cast Certain conditions require surgery and a cast to ensure the surgery heals correctly. Sometimes this cast gets in the way of safely securing your child in their car seat. One example may be a hip spica cast. A hip spica cast is applied after different types of leg and hip surgeries there the hip and leg need to be held in place so that they don’t move. It starts at the chest, goes around the waist and hips, and then continues down the legs. Not being able to move your child’s hips or legs means that they may not be able to fit into their regular car seat safely. Another example of a situation where you are not able to use your regular car seat because of a cast is if your child is in a total body splint (TBS) cast. As the name implies, this cast covers much of the body, so your child won’t be able to sit in a car seat.
If they have medical equipment Some medical devices may get in the way of a typical car seat properly securing your child. For example, a gastronomy tube (also called a G-tube) is a tube that goes directly into the stomach and is used to give your child food or medicine. Since the hole the tube goes through is on the stomach, this can cause issues when trying to put them in their car seat.
If they face any behavioral challenges Children who have certain behavioral challenges may have trouble using a typical car seat. You may see hyperactivity or compulsive actions in a child with autism and it may make it challenging for the child to stay in their seat, which is unsafe while you are driving. For example, they may unbuckle the seat belt while the car is still moving.
If they face any physical challenges Sometimes physical challenges make using a typical car seat difficult, or even impossible, for your child. For example, if a child has low muscle tone, they may need additional support to safely and comfortably be in the car. Children with cerebral palsy or down syndrome may fall into this category.
If your child has a cast or certain medical equipment that makes it difficult to use their regular car seat, Lurie Children’s can help! Based out of the Pedersen Family Learning Center on the 12 floor, our special needs car seat program allows us to loan special needs car seats to our families to make sure they can get home, as well as to and from follow-up appointments, safely.