Special Needs Car Seat

special needs car seats

Children with special needs often need special car seats to be safe when being transported.

It can be a challenge to find the right fit based on various physical or behavioral challenges each child experiences.

Behavioral challenges

Many children with special needs exhibit disruptive behaviors as part of their disability. Some of these children have a propensity to unbuckle, their restraints. They may require a special harness or vest to keep them secure. Children with autism, for example, have challenges with hyperactivity. Proper restraint is important because these children often don’t understand the danger of roaming around the vehicle.

Parents should not try to modify the child’s current seat as it may take away from the crash tested safety of that seat. Rather they should search for a child restraint with different type of buckle or clips that are more difficult for the child to unbuckle.

Some parents find the RideSafer a solution as the angle of the buckle is different than other restraints. The new RideSafer has a new type of buckle that is more “Houdini-proof”. Other children will need to go so far as to have restraints which have the closures in the back.

RideSafer travel car seatPhysical challenges

Children with special needs also have physical challenges which we need to work around with their child restraints. For example, some children with autism have sensory issues and prefer a tight fit to a lighter touch of straps. Again many parents say the RideSafer vest, made of soft fabric and padding, is like a hug or the weighted vest some of these children use.

Other children may have poor motor control and need the restraint to help them sit in proper position and stay in place. The RideSafer comes with a tether to help these children stay in position.


In general, specialized or adaptive special needs car seats are designed specifically for children with special health care needs. Most are not available at retail stores.

Many of these special needs car seats can be very expensive ranging from several hundred to even thousands of dollars. Some may be covered under insurance with sufficient documentation.

Some older children need more than just a seat belt and could use a harness system like a RideSafer vest, which costs $159 for the vest and tether strap.

A car seat solution for parents of Children with Special Needs

Keep your kids SAFE AND COMFORTABLE with the RideSafer® Travel Vest. Even children with special needs are fans of this wearable wonder!

special needs car seat


Our son hates his car seat…always has. He has spent the last 6 years screaming every time we went anywhere, no matter how far away. He has cerebral palsy and needs a little help for his trunk support. This vest is fabulous. He loves riding in the car now. It was a night and day difference immediately. His comfort level is perfect now. I also feel that he is a lot safer since the vest holds him securely, better than the straps/buckles on the car seats.

~ Esther Lockerby, mother

Our son has a sensory processing disorder, which is frequently part of autism (considered a spectrum disorder). He has problems with certain stimuli as well as huge struggles when things change. We were worried about the vest, but let him pick it and got him used to the idea until it came. Now it’s hard to get him to take it off. He loves it. I think the snug fit helps (sort of working like weighted blankets). He also likes the routine – we do the Velcro, he does the buckle. He buckles himself into the car without struggling with the bulky car seat as we have a narrow car and 3 kids in car seats, and that gives him control and independence – something he struggles with. We also feel like he’s a lot safer now because he tended to slump over and fall asleep in his booster and for some reason with the vest, he stays upright when he falls asleep. It is working great for him.

~ a parent in Everett, WA

By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004

Copyright 2017 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Read our blog about planning for future care of a child with special needs.


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  • stephanie
    Posted at 21:27h, 21 December Reply

    good equipment and can make children with special needs become more comfortable

  • Amma Wendy Williams
    Posted at 12:12h, 27 January Reply

    Where can I purchase this item

  • Lynette Hillbrick
    Posted at 21:50h, 06 March Reply

    Can the RideSafer be used with a car seat? I am working with a little girl who has broken a houdini strap!! Slips her arms out of the straps and stands up. Can you help?

    • Amie
      Posted at 11:59h, 12 March Reply

      The RideSafer is not designed to be used within a car seat. You can try just the RideSafer with a tether strap and a crotch strap to see if that helps keep her properly buckled. We have a 15-day free trial period to see if it will work for you.

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