Tips for travelling with children with Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome is not in itself an impediment for them to travel in the car

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Road Safety

You probably think that when travelling by car with children with Down’s syndrome you should take special precautions. The truth is that Down Syndrome is not in itself an impediment for them to travel in the car, or for them to do so as normally as possible, because they really are normal children, each with his or her own specific characteristics.

Every child is different, and in the case of children with Down Syndrome, there is a lot of information available on the subject. Associations such as Down España work hard so that we all know more about the day-to-day life of these children and the adults they will become.

However, at the same time, there is a certain general lack of knowledge in society, which can lead you to fall into clichés or be afraid to do anything special with them. The truth is that the barriers for children with Down Syndrome are far fewer than you might think. 

Children with Down Syndrome may also have special needs

Assuming that a child with Down syndrome is a normal child in any day-to-day situation and can perform tasks, play, or interact with others in a normal way, it is possible that he or she may have special needs. In such cases, we will naturally have to take care of the details, but we must emphasise that one does not necessarily imply the other: there are children with Down Syndrome who do not have special needs.

As Agustín Matía, manager of Asociación Down España,  tells us there are no special precautions to take into account when travelling with children with Down Syndrome. The limitations of a person with Down Syndrome are mainly intellectual. Making sure that the child understands the basic mechanisms of the vehicle (use of door and window locks, for example) should be sufficient.

Many of these children are born with a heart disease, and we must therefore provide them with the appropriate care after their surgery, should they need it, so that the child can travel properly and safely seated in his or her adapted car seat. Matía recommends “considering the appropriate measures according to their specific clinical situation, and not so much because of their Down’s Syndrome. It is much riskier letting them not wear a seatbelt than the problems the belt may cause for these children”.

In this regard, we advise you to read our specific article on child car seats for children with special needs, where you will learn about the types of child car seats available for children with special needs that and a few recommendations. 

In the event that the child has to undergo a surgery, you should consult the surgeon regarding the use of your CRS’ harnesses, and in any case, it is highly recommended that the child travel in a rear-facing position to minimise the pressure of the harnesses on his or her chest.

Another possible special need may be that the child is born and grows with reduced muscle tone, or has weak neck muscles. In these cases, we recommended that he or she travels facing backwards for longer, until he or she reaches a weight that implies better muscle development. In such cases, it should be borne in mind that “although they are delayed compared to the general population, children with Down Syndrome will have achieved head control long before the question arises. Therefore, it is their size and weight that will determine the moment to change child seats, rather than their age”, says Matía.

In any case, you should consider each case individually, and act accordingly to any special needs he or she may have. As noted above, it is quite possible that the child has no special needs and, therefore, can travel exactly as any other child would, getting bored as any other child would, and needing regular rest as any other child would.

We cannot end this article without mentioning child transport by school bus, because instead of thinking about special actions, “we must consider the same recommendations and guidance on Road Safety Education that we give to the rest of the population to avoid general accidents. It is the same advice as for other children: travel seated, with the seat belt on… You should simply make sure that the instructions are understandable to them and confirming that they have understood them”.

We would like to thank Asociación Down España for their time and attention to these important issues.