Helpful Car Shopping Tips for Special Needs Parents

woman_car_shoppingCar shopping overwhelms me. In many ways it’s exciting, but I am not good with all the little details. I also do not need every single bell and whistle – I just need a reliable, safe vehicle to load up with my kids and putter around town or occasionally go somewhere a bit farther. Also it should get excellent gas mileage and offer an affordable monthly payment, of course.

Every parent of a special needs child will have a unique list of requirements and requests, just like every driver likes things a certain way. For me, a dark cloth seat is important. My special needs child tends to spill things a lot, so something easy to clean that doesn’t show all the mess is key. Also, lots of cup holders will help avoid some spills. Lots of plugs and ports will also help avoid meltdowns on long rides. We don’t need ramps or lifts, but whatever your needs are you can find an adapted vehicle or have your vehicle modified in many ways.

With three rapidly growing kids in my brood I felt a third row seat was important. Also, my special needs child sometimes needs to stretch very dramatically, although this is less about being a special needs kid and more about just being a kid in general – especially a kid who has siblings. She also occasionally has muscle spasms that can be very painful for her (as well as for the person next to her when an arm or leg suddenly shoots out on its own) so giving the kids enough interior space was a high priority for me.

The tricky part for me is not to get distracted by how I want my life to be and to stay focused on the reality of my life. Sure, I would love to have the ginormous family vehicle with ample cargo space and seats for eleventy three for all those road trips and beach outings…but the fact is that we rarely do those things. I would love to plan detailed vacations where we shuttle from place to place exploring cultural and historical locations in areas near and far…but I am not all that good with all the little details, as I said earlier. So really, why pay for the tank-sized truckster every day when we might only use it for its true purpose once?

If your family needs a new vehicle, do your research. Be good at the little details, unlike me. There are so many packages and options available, find the one that suits your family’s special requests. If your special needs child is very sensitive to cold you might want the option to turn on the engine and the heater from inside your house via your smartphone. If you need to carry medication with you then an air conditioned glove compartment might be an absolute necessity for your family.

For more information on vehicles and special needs, check out this brochure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

About the Author

Rosie Reeves is a writer and mother of three; including one with special needs. She works side-by-side with her daughter’s therapists, teachers and doctors. Rosie has also served as the Los Angeles Special Needs Kids Examiner. She can be reached at Rosie is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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