Tips for Choosing a Stroller for an Autistic Child

Older child riding in a stroller

Tracking an overstimulated child in a crowded place can be all but impossible, and it's common for legs to get tired long before it's time to leave. No matter what your child's functioning level, there's a stroller that can help make it easier for you to get out in the community. The trick is knowing how to choose the ideal model for your family.

Assess Your Needs Before You Shop

When you bought your child's first stroller, you thought about what you needed before you started shopping. Buying a stroller for an older child with ASD is no different. Ask yourself the following questions before you begin searching for the right model:

  • What is your child's current height and weight? How much do you project he will grow during the time you plan to use this stroller?
  • Do you need a stroller that folds up fairly small for carrying on public transportation or keeping in a small closet?
  • Does your child have specific requirements you want to consider, such as a tendency to open a certain kind of buckle himself or room for a special toy?
  • What is your budget?

Use a Standard Stroller as Long as Possible

The downside of special needs strollers is that they tend to be expensive. Most retail for more than $500. Depending on your child's age, size, and functioning, you may be able to get by with a regular stroller made for older, larger kids. This can save you a lot of money. Not every stroller is appropriate for this type of situation, but by looking at the maximum weight ratings, you can find one that could work for a few years. The Stroller Site lists several options with high weight limits, including the Joovy Zoom, which holds a child up to 75 pounds and retails for about $300.

Consider an Option With a Sunshade

As your child gets older, it can be challenging to find strollers with sunshades. However, for a child with ASD, this can help minimize outside stimulation from bright lights and crowds. If you kid tends to melt down in super sunny conditions, try something like the Jogger stroller by Special Tomato, which features a folding sunshade, accommodates a child up to 110 pounds, and retails for about $650.

Prioritize Stability for Heavy and Active Children

Three-wheeled strollers can be wonderfully maneuverable, and that's important. However, stability may be more of a priority if your child tends to move around a lot in the stroller. It's one thing to keep a three-wheeled stroller upright with a small baby riding in it, but it's quite another with a heavier, older child. This isn't an issue with every child, but you'll know if it is something to consider with yours. Some three-wheeled models are wonderful in many other ways but don't have the level of stability you may need. If possible, test the stroller out in the store to see if it will work for your family.

Get Only the Options You Need

It's tempting to get a model with all the bells and whistles, but you could end up spending more for things you won't really use. Instead, look for a model you can customize with the accessories you really need. Depending on your needs, you may be better off with a choice like the Maclaren Major Elite Transport Chair, which retails for about $425 and holds a child up to 110 pounds. It has optional accessories like a seat pad, shopping basket, lateral supports, a rain cover, and more. Alternatively, look at the features of various strollers you're considering and don't pay more for one with features you may not really use in your daily life with your child.

Buy a Stroller for Your Child's Current Developmental Level

When your child has autism, it can be hard to predict the rate at which he or she will develop. Think about your child's current functioning level and choose a stroller that will be appropriate for that level for the next few years. This is better than buying ahead and hassling with a stroller that doesn't meet your child's needs. Consider core stability and how much support he or she may need, as well as features like bags and baskets that let you carry sensory toys or snacks. If your child outgrows the stroller developmentally before he or she outgrows it physically, you can always pass it on to a friend.

Every Child Is Different

Ultimately, the key to finding the perfect stroller for you comes down to assessing the needs of your individual child and your family. Every person with autism is different, and the stroller that works for a friend at your child's school won't necessarily be right for you. Takes some time to try out different models at the store to find the one that lets you get out and active in your community.

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Tips for Choosing a Stroller for an Autistic Child