Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is a hereditary disease that progressively destroys the lower motor neurons, which control essential voluntary muscular activity such as speaking, walking, breathing and swallowing. In other words, these neurons control the movements of the arms, legs, chest, face, throat and tongue.
There are various types of spinal muscular atrophy and despite the fact that all of them are serious, and in many cases life expectancy is very short, there are treatments to control the symptoms and prevent further complications. However, there is no actual cure for this disease.
Depending on the age at which the disease starts, its severity and the progress of the symptoms, it is classified into three types: Type I, which appears around six months of age or even earlier; Type II, which usually appears between 6 and 18 months of age; and Type III, which appears between the ages of 2 and 17.
In view of the symptoms, the specific precautions are similar to those that should be taken with children suffering from other muscular or degenerative diseases. These symptoms might include hypotony, reduced mobility or difficulty in moving the limbs, lack of tendon reflexes, fasciculations (uncontrollable spasms), shaking, eating difficulties and breathing problems. Some children also experience skeletal disorders.
Generally speaking, these children suffer from overall weakness, although the scope of this weakness depends on the type of disease: they may be unable to raise their head or sit up, or perhaps they can sit up but need help to actually get in that position.
Babies with Type I SMA need rear-facing child seats, and it is possible that they will also need additional support for the head. You might be able to use a standard child seat, but it is possibly too vertical for these children. In most cases you need to resort to the help of a physiotherapist or medical professional to determine what kind of seat you should use, because it will depend on the diagnosis and severity of the symptoms.
This difficulty means that as the child grows, his or her specific needs may vary greatly according to the case, and therefore medical advice is essential to guarantee the child's comfort and, of course, their safety in the car.