Jul 10, 2009

CARES for Special Needs Children

I've talked a lot about how easy and safe the Child Aviation Restraint System (CARES) is and I've come across another wonderful use for it. I was recently contacted by a mom of a special needs 15 year old to rent a CARES after she read about another family who used a CARES harness on their flight for an older child. I was unsure of the process to actually be allowed to use it outside of it's pre-approved 44lb weight, so I contacted Louise Stoll, creator of the CARES and owner of Kids Fly Safe. She graciously explained the entire process of obtaining an FAA Exemption to use the system for a special needs child or adult who does not fit within the pre-approved weight. If your child is already in the 22-44lb weight range, no exemption is needed.

Below is what you can do to ensure your special needs child remains safe and secure on your flight and can use the CARES harness:

1 .Discuss with your caregiver (doctor, physical therapist etc) whether the CARES will provide sufficient upper body support for your child

2. Contact the FAA and request what is called an Exemption (meaning an exemption from the regulations governing the weight and height of CARES users) for your child. The person to contact in the FAA is Ms. Nancy Claussen Nancy.L.Claussen@faa.gov.

3. Explain in the email to Ms. Claussen why your child needs the extra support beyond a seat belt, and state that you and their caregiver believe CARES is appropriate for your child to use. Include your child's height and weight, and ask permission to use the CARES. Be sure your contact information is clear, as the FAA will no doubt call to be certain that they understand the situation.

4. The letter should indicate that you are aware that exemptions have been made in the past, and that they understand your will need to seat your child in a seat where no one is behind them who might push against her seat back. (This means the last row of any section of the plane.)

5. Allow at least 4 weeks prior to your trip, but the earilier the better, to receive the exemption.

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