Understanding Special Tomato Booster Car Seat (BCS) vs. MPS Car Seat
Special Tomato, the brand that brings you clinically sound, innovative seating systems at exceptional value offers consumers both a car seat and a booster car seat. For those of you who are new to the world of child safety restraint systems (CSRS)-the equipment that keeps your child safe during travel in automobiles and airplanes- it’s time to listen up! Car seats and booster seats are NOT the same. To ensure your child’s safety the differences need to be understood. This is especially true if your child has special needs and requires additional support in sitting to maintain a well aligned comfortable position during travel.
Once you understand the fundamental similarities and differences between car seats and booster seats, we can begin to compare the Special Tomato Multi-Positioning Seat (MPS) Car Seat and the Special Tomato Booster Car Seat™ (BCS).
Both the BCS & MPS Car Seat are:
- Designed by Therapists. Experienced therapists combined their knowledge with that of engineers & seating specialists to create child safety restraint systems that are not only safety approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) but are clinically sound, versatile, and affordably priced.
- Made from Soft Touch® Material, Special Tomato cushions are formulated from a proprietary blend resulting in a soft, extremely durable, latex-free material. This waterproof yet breathable material provides support and comfort. The Soft-Touch inner core is formulated to allow children to sit comfortably for longer periods of time. Cushions are easily wiped clean.
- FMVSS213 Compliant. Meets or exceeds standardized governmental safety regulations to be used as a Child Restraint System in a motor vehicle.
- FAA Compliant. Approved for aircraft travel.
- LATCH System Compatible. LATCH system is required for installation of the BCS and MPS Car seat in automobiles.
- MPS Car Seat – The LATCH (plus the tether) keeps the seat secured to the vehicle. Then the 5-point car-seat grade harness keeps the child secured to the seat.
- BCS – The LATCH keeps the BCS in place when the BCS is not in use so that it does not become a projectile if there were an accident. The vehicle’s 3-point lap/shoulder belt secures both the seat to the vehicle AND the child to the seat. The BCS 8-point harness if for positioning purposes only.
- Forward Facing. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Highway Safety Board recommend that children 2 years or older, or those younger than 2 who have outgrown the weight or height limits for their rear-facing safety seat, be restrained — in the back seat of the car — in a forward-facing safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. This means up to the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of the car seat. You know your child is getting too tall for his or her forward-facing car seat when the top of his or her ears reach the top of the seat. Switch to a belt-positioning booster seat when your child has outgrown the car seat and he or she is too small to fit properly in the vehicle’s lap/ shoulder belt. The child should remain in a belt-positioning booster seat until the lap/shoulder belt fits properly (across the center of the chest and low on the hips touching the thighs) typically when they have reached 4’9” tall and are between 8 and 12 years old. When used correctly, a belt-positioning booster seat helps to prevent injuries in a crash.
- Equipped with Attachment Straps for a Variety of Uses. Both products come standard with attachment straps (2) that allow them to be securely attached to any stable standard chair. So, when you’re traveling, the same comfortable, supportive seat that you are using as a CSRS in the car or airplane can be used to offer postural support for sitting practically anywhere. This eliminates the need for multiple pieces of space consuming costly equipment. The BCS is extremely light weight and portable with size small weighing only 13 lbs. (6 kg) and size large weighing 15 lbs. (7 kg). The MPS Car Seat, though portable, will require a bit more time for detachment from the car’s seat and bit more muscle for carrying. The small size MPS Car Seat weighs 45 lbs. (20 kg). The size large weighs 52 lbs. (23.5 kg).
Now let’s take a closer look at the BCS & MPS Car Seat to get a better idea of why you might choose one over the other.
Size of Your Child- The general rule of thumb for car seats and booster seats for typically developing children and children with special needs is that car seats are most appropriate for smaller, younger children and booster seats are for larger, older children. A belt-positioning booster seat is used until the lap/ shoulder belt fits properly across the center of the child’s chest and low on the hips touching the thighs. Children with special needs can greatly benefit from the postural support offered by the BCS and MPS Car Seat even beyond that time because the seat of a car does not offer the extra postural support often need by people with special needs.
Here are some specifics about fitting the BCS and MPS Car Seat:
Customization of Seating Surface
- MPS Car Seat- The seating surface of the MPS Car Seat is highly customizable. 3 Cushions (seat, back and head) rest in a hard shell to provide comfortable contoured postural support and ensure a well-aligned midline position. The ability to choose the style of the headrest and the size of the seat and back cushions ensure a perfectly supportive fit. The MPS Car Seat also offers easy adjustment for placement of the cushions with hook and loop attachment on the shell’s track system. The Headrest Cushion and Back Cushion are easily detached and moved up to accommodate growth in height. The Contoured Back Cushion supports the natural curvature of the spine. Lateral trunk supports are molded into the cushion and help the user to maintain a well aligned midline upright posture. The Contoured Seat Cushion with Hip-Flex™ Adjustment provides medial (inside) and lateral (outside) support for the thighs to keep hips in a well aligned position. Hip-Flex™ Adjustment allows the seat cushion to be easily pivoted 30 degrees (15 degrees of hip flexion or extension from customary 90 degrees of hip flexion in upright sitting) to ensure optimal pelvic positioning, the foundation of the seated posture. Hip flex technology also allows for easy, tool free adjustments to the seat during long car trips. Cost effective cushion replacements allow for accommodation of the user’s growth and can provide increases in depth and width. Multiple cushion sizes are also ideal for individuals who are not typically proportioned. Replace one cushion or replace them all, whatever is needed.
- BCS- The seating surface of the BCS cannot be customized. Seat depth and width are fixed. The BCS has a contoured back that supports the natural curvature of the spine. Lateral trunk supports and head support (occipital ridge) are molded into the seat itself and help the user maintain a well aligned upright position. The contoured seat is designed to allow the ischial tuberosities (ITs) commonly called “sit bones” to comfortably sink into the seat thereby creating the stable base required for the foundation of the seated posture. The contoured seat also includes a 15 degree ramped angle with built in abductor. Both features ensure a well aligned hip position and discourage extensor thrusting in the seat.
Simply stated, the MPS Car Seat offers greater control over the postural support especially for users who have more complex needs. And as a child grows there are options to offer individualized support for growth. Once the BCS is outgrown, it is outgrown.
Restraining Straps versus Positioning Straps
- MPS Car Seat Adjustable 5-Point Harness (Car Seat Grade) is an approved child restraint. The Harness is a single positioning and restraining unit that can be adjusted for optimal postural support and/or growth. Shoulder Straps keep shoulders back and discourage rounding of the spine which leads to a forward head position and anterior trunk lean. The Lap Belt with Crotch Strap maintains proper pelvic position.
- BCS Adjustable 5-Point Trunk and 3-Point Pevis Positioning Harnesses: These harnesses are used for positioning purposes ONLY. They are NOT approved child restraints. It is the vehicles seat belt (shoulder strap and lap belt) in combination with the shoulder guide positioner that acts as the child’s safety restraint. The harnesses can be adjusted to fit the user as she/he grows. Shoulder Straps keep shoulders back and discourage rounding of the spine which leads to a forward head position and anterior trunk lean. Bottom pull straps (separate/ independent of Pelvic Positioning Harness) and center side release clasp ensure the ability of the harness to maintain an upright midline posture of the trunk. The Pelvis Positioning Harness with a strap across the hips and crotch strap are easily adjusted for optimal pelvic positioning. This helps to keep hips back in the seat and discourages sliding forward.
You should also be aware that the MPS Car Seat can be purchased as a Multi-Positioning Seat with Footrest. To use the MPS Seat with Footrest as a Car Seat the footrest must be removed. The footrest has not been crash tested. Removal of the footrest is easy and tool free. The MPS Seat with Footrest can also be purchased with a Wooden Mobile Indoor Base for an additional cost. The Mobile Base allows the child to be moved without needing to be picked up. It’s perfect for circle time at school, playing with friends and siblings at home or “chilling out” with the rest of the family. And, the MPS Seat with Footrest has a Tray with Tray Risers offered as an accessory. The Tray with Tray Risers cannot be used when the MPS Seat is used as a car seat. Tray is depth adjustable and has 60 degrees of tilt. These features provide the best tray position for a variety of activities including eating, arts & crafts, and story-time.
A variety of indoor bases can also be purchased for the BCS. Floor Sitter Base- Tilt-in-space positioning allows for fully upright sitting or sitting tilted back as far as 25 degrees and anywhere in between. This allows the user to engage postural muscles to varying degrees as tolerated and as activity dictates. With the Floor Sitter Wedge Base, the user can be positioned sitting on the floor where peers and siblings typically play.
Stationary Base and Mobile Base- The Stationary Base allows children to be close to the floor without caregivers having to transfer them all the way down to the floor. The Stationary Base is equipped with furniture glides to protect floors. The Mobile Base is the same as the Stationary Base, with the addition of wheels to allow the child to be moved room to room or to different parts of the classroom without picking up the child. Perfect for playing with friends and siblings at home, circle time at school, or “chilling out” with the rest of the family.
As you can clearly see, when it comes to a car seat or a booster seat for children with special needs, Special Tomato has you covered with unmatched versatility in use of these very special products.