The American Academy of Pediatrics (link), also known as the AAP, is one of the most active organizations internationally on the special care and attention that children with specific medical conditions require. So much so that within its structure it has a specific department called Medical Home (link) where its members study the care required for these children and ensure their rights particularly.
According to the AAP, children with special needs are "all children who suffer from or are at increased risk of chronic physical conditions, related to development or behavior, or chronic emotional conditions and who, as a result, also require more medical or other attention or assistance than children in general." Based on this definition and on their extensive experience, they provide us with the following recommendations:
- Limit unnecessary trips. If each ride in the car is difficult for our little one, it is best to make him/her go places as little as possible and only when necessary. Thus, he/she will not associate the car as being something negative, and we prevent overexposure to avoidable risks.
- Whenever picking up the child after a hospital stay, we must consult the doctors on the protocol to follow (image) on the way home, when getting into and out of the CRS, during the first hours back at home and what the most suitable CRS is for each specific case.
- If we are going to take a trip with a special needs child (image) we should have a written action plan with the care he/she needs and an emergency medical kit, just like the one shown in this image.
- If the trip is due to a change of residence, we have to ensure that the child will be able to receive the same care and education where we are going as where we are coming from. According to current regulations, children with special needs have the right to access the same services as any other child.
- Since technology and research increasingly offer more solutions in terms of CRS for special needs, we must regularly check for developments in the field, to have the best-suited CRS for our child.
- If putting the child in or taking the child out of the CRS takes a lot of time and we do not have an easy place to park close to home, we can request an accessible parking space. We are guaranteed a parking space close to home and, generally, with more space.
- Since CRS for special needs tend to be fairly expensive, we can consult our pediatrician, the hospital or social media about the possibility of borrowing this kind of seat as long as we keep some points in mind.
To conclude, here are some general tips that make even more sense in these specific cases:
- Starting on October 1, it is mandatory for children to ride in the backseat unless the vehicle does not have a backseat, the backseat is already occupied by other children in their CRS or the CRS cannot be installed in the backseat. If we have to use a rear-facing CRS (image) in the front seat, always make sure that the airbag is disconnected, and if using a forward-facing CRS, make sure that it is not too close to the airbags.
- Whenever possible, install the CRS in the middle back seat, since this is the safest place in the event of a collision.
- Never leave the child alone inside the vehicle (video). It does not matter how little time it will take us to do what we need to do.
- During midrange and long trips, an adult should always accompany the child in the backseat. We never know when he/she may need our attention, and the time that it takes to stop the car in a safe place to be able to attend to him/her may be too long.