Hugh’s first car seat was a fancy little infant carrier that attached neatly to his pushchair. It was rear facing – as required by law – and initially at least, it was easy to carry him in.

Every parent ever, will tell you though that as the child gets heavier, the combined weight of the infant carrier and their baby’s weight leaves your arms aching. Eventually it becomes easier to just carry the child from the car instead.

In the UK, when Hugh was little this first size car seat, which was rear facing took babies from birth to around 9 months or until they weighed 10kg, they then often moved to a forward facing car seat.* (Guidelines have recently.) At 9 months however, Hugh was as floppy as a newborn still. He was lost in the car seat that had served his older brother so well.

As time went on, he grew bigger and heavier but was still unable to reliably hold his own head up – a standard car seat no longer seemed appropriate. To further complicate matters he regularly stopped breathing, so travelling with him in the back of the car was unsafe. What I needed was a rear facing car seat that I could place in the front passenger seat that offered the same level of support that a newborn needed whilst being a suitable size for a toddler.

So how do you go about finding one of those?

Luckily I discovered the Regional Driving Assessment Centre. They hold ‘Child Car Seat Clinics’ where you can go and be assessed for a suitable car seat. I was able to self refer (although you can get a professional to do this for you) and for a nominal fee of just £10 was booked into the next available clinic.

The assessment involved detailing Hugh’s physical needs as well as what I wanted from a car seat. Sometimes they will ask for information from your child’s physiotherapist or occupational therapist too. Then reps from a couple of different companies showcased a variety of car seats that would meet our needs.

Hugh was able to try all of the seats and we were even able to try them in my own car.

The Occupational Therapist from the centre checked Hugh’s positioning and took photographs of him in the seats. There were two car seats I liked and each of the reps prepared a written quote for my chosen seats and the Occupational Therapist provided me with a list of charities that may consider funding, or part funding, the car seat.

A week or so later a very detailed written report from the Occupational Therapist arrived. It contained photos of Hugh in the chosen car seats and gave lots of information about Hugh’s needs and how the car seat met them. This letter, along with the written quotes made applying to a charity much easier.

There are a number of assessment centres around the country with the aim of helping older and disabled people achieve a better quality of life by helping them gain more independence through mobility either as a driver or a passenger.

One of the ways they do this is through the Child Car Seat and Harness clinics but they offer other forms of assessment too.

You can find out about the Regional Driving Assessment Service here: http://www.rdac.co.uk/

You can find out more about the law in the UK regarding car seats here: http://www.childcarseats.org.uk/

*Guidelines in the UK have recently changed. Group 0 Rear Facing Car Seats should be used until the child is 15 months or 13kgs.

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