Special Needs Car Seat - Safe Ride 4 Kids

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 difficult for those “Houdini” children that like to unbuckle. 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.


  • 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.

  • Laura Gardner
    Posted at 03:30h, 24 July Reply

    Help…. my toddler unbuckes his carseat ..last time was rush hour on the freeway.my kiddo is a twin with sensory processing disorder and autism speech delay and seizures. My little guy shakes super uncomfortable and screams,crys anytime we are in the car especially when he’s in the car seat. First i thought it could be the carseat but continues happening even after i bought new carseats for my guys..please any advice would be greatly appreciated and welcoming..And if my little guy requires a special carseat would insurance cover/full or half of the cost..discounts,promo codes, giveaways, donations,coupons ..thank you .Twin mommy

    • Amie
      Posted at 07:56h, 24 July Reply

      Hi Laura, That must be super stressful. Insurance will often cover the cost of special car seats. I’m not sure if it’s more likely if it’s prescribed by a doctor or not. We’re not often involved in that process. To many kids, the RideSafer feels like a weighted vest so it’s accepted as a restraint. It sounds like your kiddo is still young, perhaps too young for a RideSafer (starts at age 3). Merritt has several options for children with special needs.

  • Lisa Little
    Posted at 15:51h, 25 July Reply

    Will this fit an adult who is 6′ and 225 pounds?

    • Amie
      Posted at 18:33h, 26 July Reply

      No, sorry, it won’t.

  • Cheryl
    Posted at 05:21h, 19 October Reply

    Hi can anyone tell me the maximum waist size on the waist strap of a large harness ..

    • Amie
      Posted at 09:30h, 19 October Reply

      Hi Cheryl, The manufacturer specs say 38″ but we’ve found that some kids don’t fit to that size. The manufacturer is supposed to be releasing a waist extender piece and an XL vest. We do not have a set release date yet.

  • Jennifer
    Posted at 09:11h, 12 November Reply

    Hi, My son is autistic. He 11 years old and 85 pounds. Will this work for him or is he too big?

    • Amie
      Posted at 10:47h, 12 November Reply

      Hi Jennifer, The large RideSafer has an upper weight limit of 80 pounds when used with a lap-only seat belt and dual tether. Now if a child is more than 80 pounds and the vest still fits, it’s OK to use still with a lap-shoulder belt since the seat belt is doing the restraint.

      We’ve been told the manufacturer is expected to release an XL size. We understand there will just be a small number of XL at first to see how well they sell. The manufacturer says they should be here in the next month or so.

      If you aren’t already, sign up for our newsletter as we will announce when they are available. Or follow us on Facebook.

  • Blake Freed
    Posted at 05:57h, 13 November Reply

    My 8 yr old autistic little boy will not go in a car seat anymore. He has been riding using the lap/shoulder seat belt and most the time has been ok and well behaved. However when he is in a rambunctious mood he has been getting out of the seat belt and moving about the vehicle. Will this product physically restrain him so that he cannot get out of the seat belt when he is in one of those moods ?

    • Amie
      Posted at 10:34h, 13 November Reply

      It really depends on the child.

      For many parents, the RideSafer is a “god-send” that finally keeps their child restrained properly. The buckle on the vest is meant to be “Houdini-proof” which has frustrated many a parent. But in all honesty some people, including some escapee children find it easy to unbuckle. (It is easier to unbuckle if the strap is at all loose so keeping it tight helps.) Even with a child who is not able to unbuckle, there are some escapees who find very creative ways out of the vest.

      We would also recommend a Buckle Boss Buckle Guard to keep the child from unbuckling the seat belt.

      We do offer a 15-day return policy for trying the vest to see if it will work for you. Just save the packaging in case it doesn’t and you need to send it back.

  • Alfredo Blakeney
    Posted at 23:23h, 10 December Reply

    good post

  • Lee
    Posted at 06:10h, 11 December Reply

    My son is 6 with autism, non verbal. He pushes his chest clip down and pulls his arms thru but can’t unbuckle the crotch button. He also unbuckles the seat belt. I noticed this car seat uses the seat belt. Can he still access the seat belt buckle in this harness? Or do you sell something to stop him from being able to do that?

    • Amie
      Posted at 14:55h, 13 December Reply

      He would have access to the seat belt buckle when using the RideSafer. We carry the Buckle Boss Belt Guard to keep children from unbuckling the seat belt.

  • Kevin Sorqvst
    Posted at 05:18h, 05 February Reply

    My fiance’s daughter down syndrome is very bright. Shes 14 y/o, aprox 85 Lbs. She manages to squeeze out from her vehicle standard 3 point shoulder strap and reaches over to grab her moms right arm, shoulder or hair whe she is driving.

    • Amie
      Posted at 14:48h, 05 February Reply

      An XL RideSafer vest with a tether strap may help keep her better restrained and from being able to reach over to grab mom. We should have them back in stock later in February or early March.

  • Anita kuryla
    Posted at 07:13h, 04 March Reply

    I have a special needs child who knows how to unbuckle the front strap of her car seat I have given her toys to play with the keep her distracted and as come to an issue I had asked to school what I can do to find a car seat or booster seat for her to sit at I get my car seat from Walmart but sometimes I don’t know which one to choose so I would like some information on how to find a better car seat it is safe for my child

    • Amie
      Posted at 13:35h, 04 March Reply

      Choosing a seat is very dependent on a lot of factors including your child and your car. If your child is unbuckling the front strap, it may be that no seat purchased from Walmart will be appropriate as many front buckles are the same type of buckle. Depending on the size and needs of your child, there are special needs specific car seats that may be required to keep your child properly restrained. RideSafer is not specifically made for special needs children but many parents have found it has worked well for their child with special needs. Others include a EZ-On Harness and car seats by Merritt Manufacturing. I recommend finding a Child Passenger Safety Technician near you who you can meet with to help you find the best solution for your child. There are some that specialize in special needs.

  • Rosalie
    Posted at 23:53h, 20 March Reply

    Hey Guys,
    In the event of an emergency, can this product be cut with a “seatbelt” cutter?

    • Amie
      Posted at 10:12h, 21 March Reply

      The straps are thick for a seat belt cutter because they have padding. What would work best in an emergency is to use a seat belt cutter to cut the seat belt and leave it in the RideSafer guides to remove the child quickly.

  • Rachel R Bowie
    Posted at 13:49h, 27 May Reply

    My son will be 9 in Aug and is 93 lbs can he use this

    • Amie
      Posted at 11:00h, 28 May Reply

      The RideSafer manufacturer recently added a XL size that goes from 80 to 110 pounds specifically to fill a need of larger children with special needs. We should have them back in stock this week.

  • Nicole Stidham
    Posted at 21:22h, 28 June Reply

    My special needs son has CP. I am looking for a device that will help keep his pevis backnin the sear. He has a lot of tone and line to slouch. Will this device help to keep his pelvis back against the seat?

    • Nicole Stidham
      Posted at 21:26h, 28 June Reply

      Keep his Pelvis back in the seat**** sorry. I really should proof read‍♀️

      Likes to slouch***‍♀️

    • Amie
      Posted at 15:48h, 30 June Reply

      If you lock the seat belt and use the tether it should help him keep his bottom against the seat and sitting up properly.

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