It is estimated that two out of every 1,000 children are born with cerebral palsy in Spain, and each year, 1,500 children are born with it or develop it at a young age. As we discussed in previous articles, children with cerebral palsy or other muscular disorders do not have sufficient muscle mass to control their head, neck or torso fully.
If we add to that the forces that the body is subject to when riding in a motor vehicle, it is necessary to use Child Restraint Systems to keep these children seated correctly and prevent joint overstrain during sharp deceleration and on curves. The following recommendations will help children to ride comfortably and, more importantly, safely:
- If height and weight permit, it is best to use rear-facing seats. Thus, the body is fully cradled by the increased support surface and it will not be affected by braking. This type of CRS is also safer in the event of a collision.
- If weight limits force us to put the child in a front-facing seat, you should choose a CRS that reclines slightly (always read the instructions and make sure that you really can do so and that it is intended for this use) to give the child extra support, which will help him/her to keep his/her head and back in line with each other.
- Selecting a CRS with a 5-point harness is highly recommended. The better we can secure the child, the more comfortable he/she will be.
- To secure his/her body even further, we can put rolled-up towels or blankets or foam tubes that are cut to size in the empty spaces between the child and the sides of the seat. This way the torso will stay straight and the head will stay aligned.
- To keep the head from falling forward or to the sides, we can use flexible neck braces, straps or hats with Velcro on the back, which will help the child support the weight of his/her head. In these cases, you should always ask a professional what the best option is for your child's needs before making that decision on your own.
- Another way to keep your child in the correct position beyond a certain age is to employ solutions such as the E-Z-On vest, which we have discussed previously. These vests secure the abdomen and help maintain an appropriate posture. Further, in the case of an accident, any force is neutralized since the child is secured by a greater surface.
- If a child with cerebral palsy grows and can no longer use a conventional CRS, he/she will have to use special, large medical seats or medical seats modified to his/her size. The best way to orient yourself in these situations is with the help of your usual therapist, to find the best product for your child's needs together. The therapist may also be able to negotiate some kind of financial aid to buy these seats.