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Britax Husky for an autistic child

I waited for months to get a Britax Super Elite and then learned it was being replaced with a new model called the Britax Husky. At the time Matthew was 6.5 years old and in need of a new seat. I was driving a 1985 Plymouth Voyager Minivan that had no shoulder belts in the back seat, only lap belts.

The law here in California changed in January of 2002 requiring all children under the age of six and under sixty pounds to be secured in a car or booster seat. A parent will get a ticket if a child under 16 is not properly buckled up. The cost of the ticket is $250 with one point added to the driving record. The second offense is $800.

Since Matthew was still under sixty pounds at this point he needed to remain in a car seat. While at the Mall with my kids we headed to Right Start so I could get on the wait list for a Britax Husky. It turned out they had it in stock, the Blue Marina was the color I wanted at 10 percent off the $229.99 price.

It was not easy to get this very large box through the Mall with two autistic kids, but I managed. It would have been nice if someone offered to assist me from the store, but that never materialized.

I had absolutely no experience with a fivepoint harness system, as we had always purchased the overhead bar type of car seats. I had planned on practicing with Matthew to learn how to work the seat, as well as develop a system we could manage in a timely manner. I tried a few times to install the seat with no success, so it ended up taking up space in our living room for over a month. This turned out well though because Matthew got used to sitting in it for brief seconds or minutes as we all became more familiar with the Britax Husky. I even had Nicholas, who was eight at the time sit in the seat a few times so Matthew would find it appealing.

I am on the mailing list for SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. after having our previous car seats checked for correct installation in the past. The week of March 30 – April 5, 2003 turned out to be Safety Seat Checkup Week so I knew if I could not get the Britax Husky installed by then we were heading over to Petersen Automotive Museum to get some assistance. I have in the past filled out their forms noting license plate numbers and pertinent data I have observed in my travels of children not properly restrained in vehicles.

Being the parent to two autistic kids I tend to look at products that are geared to the special needs community. However, when you look around for booster seats you will notice a pattern, and that is the cost tends to be over $400 for these seats. This is what first led me to the Britax Super Elite and then purchasing the Britax Husky. Although the seat did stay indoors for several weeks, I did fill out the registration card and mailed it off within the noted ten days. There are two 28-page user guides. One is kept in a pocket on the seat with the other one in my purse. I have noted the model number and date the seat was manufactured on my copy. This was also needed at the seat checkup, as was the data on the seat my son was riding in when we arrived. I ended up having the Britax Husky resting on the passenger side of my Minivan when we arrived.

Three people could fit comfortably in the back of the minivan with the seat belts. The two side ones have the arm rest, which did make the installation of the Britax Husky a bit difficult, but the two person team and the two checkers did a great job in installing this into my vehicle. The black steel recline bar is first inserted into two slots in the back before putting the seat in. This made a big difference in the comfort level for Matthew, plus the sun was not glaring in his eyes and he is closer to the Safety 1st Roller Shade.

It is important that the bottom of the restraint be flat on the vehicle seat when installed. The diagram shows 17 features for the Britax Husky. They consist of the cover. The harness slots, for smaller children you would start at the lowest slot. I tried the third one but had to go with the highest slot for my son who at 6.5 years of age was about 48 inches tall and just at fifty pounds.

Next is the harness and the comfort pads that we did not bother using, this would be more appropriate for a smaller and younger child. They are black with velcro tabs. The harness retainer is a slot on the side of the seat. The chest clip is a light shade of gray and should be at the level of the child’s armpit. While they were inspecting and rechecking the seat my son was poking himself in the chin with the chest clip, but he soon stopped doing that. He was not able to move the clip up and down and the spotter double-checked that only two thumbs could get underneath the clip. The HUGS™ Shoulder pads are also a light shade of gray. Then there is the buckle and belly pad that is the same material as the cover. This pad is easy to come off as it slides into a small slot. Matthew would remove it each time he got out of the seat.

The harness release lever is under a soft cover spot that is velcro attached and easy to open and close for adult use. The latch connectors are black and located at the sides. The harness adjuster strap comes out when the lever is released. Located in the back of the seat is the Versa-Tether™ Assembly. It is all hooked up in the back with the black buckle and hooks. The harness yoke is gray with the straps hooking into the slot on both sides.

There are storage pouches in the back on both sides, the latch adjusters are beneath them with the reclining bar as the last item in the back of the seat. There are two black holes this gets positioned in rather easily. My minivan was not equipped with Latch anchors, so this was not utilized and we followed the instructions for lap belt installation. The belt needs to be pulled all the way out and it is wise to have two adults working on this. There are slots in the front that need to be slotted through and then made way through to the back before finishing back at the front. One of the installers will need to place their knee into the body of the seat and make sure it gets installed properly and does not move about at all.

The top tether needs to be used for children over fifty pounds to anchors identified by the auto manufacturer. The buckle has two positions and needs to be adjusted when the child passes fifty pounds. We will be doing these two steps in the coming weeks. The recommendations for washing the cover mention not to use bleach or machine wash or dry. This should be hand washed and line dried. There are steps to follow to remove the buckles and clean and care for them as well.

When it is time for my son to get into the seat he can easily position himself in there and then I prompt him to pull the harness around his shoulders and arms. He waits for me to click the chest clip in place and then I reach down around his mid area for the black clips to insert into the buckle, when it clicks and does not move, it is done correctly. Then the belly pad is placed over him and he is secured in the Britax Husky and ready for the next driving adventure.

When we arrive at our destination I get into the back of the van and depress the chest clip as my son waits patiently and seems to want to help in the process. The next step is to release the buckles by pressing on the red button and removing them. My son can easily remove his arms from the harness and get up out of the seat. This is when I usually grab the belly pad before he dumps it on the floor of the vehicle.

Matthew was so much more present in the vehicle when he was sitting in the Britax Husky. He would move his arms up over his head and laugh, placing his head to the side if he was tired. The best part was that the seat was not obstructing my view in the rear view mirror, or when I needed to look back to turn or park. He was sitting behind the driver side too, but I felt the reclining bar made the difference.

I was extremely pleased with the Britax Husky. The same day we had the seat installed we headed over to Dodger Stadium for the Cure Autism Now Resource Fair and I told many other parents about purchasing the Britax Husky for their autistic children as well. Quick trips were much easier to accomplish with just a few clicks of the chest clip and buckle. Matthew gleamed with delight when he would get into the seat and I liked seeing his smile from the mirror.

My only regret is that it took so long for us to get one of these. The best recommendation I can offer is to have a seat professionally installed to give you piece of mind when traveling streets or freeways if you choose to do so. Personally I am one of those drivers that avoids the freeways at all costs, but now I may just brave that one of these days now that we have the Britax Husky carrying my precious cargo. I also had the safety personnel do a five-step test to see if Nicholas could sit in the front with the shoulder strap. He failed that test and they suggested I get two tethers installed and have his upper body protected using our E-Z-On Vest.

The Five step test mentioned for children who are not using a booster is as follows:

1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
2. Do the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?

When Matthew turned eight he weighed 61 pounds and was about 51 inches tall. Although the Britax Husky is very large, there was still room between the boys in the back seat, so they did not bother each other.

The Britax Husky is worth every dollar I paid for it! For children who weigh between 22 and 80 pounds. The height must be between 19 and 53 inches. The backseat is the safest place for children under the age of twelve.Do not use if there has been a car accident and not when there is an air bag. There is a one-year limited warranty. More details can be learned by calling 1-888-427-4829. Also please note that there will need to be adjustments during winter season when children are wearing jackets and thicker clothing. Living in Southern California where the temperature fluctuates from 70 - 90 in the past week this is not a factor.

In January of 2004 Britax issued a recall notice for the Britax Husky. I received in the mail three labels. Britax has decided that certain uses of Husky child restraints fail to conform to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 Child Restraint Systems.

Affected restraints include those restraints that are installed in the motor vehicle using lap belt only installation. The affected installation method includes the use with the lap belt routed as currently described in the user's guide and on the label on the side of the restraint. This belt path routing is known as a serpentine belt path, or long belt path, by the manner in which it is routed around the back and sides of the shell.

With the lap belt only installation, resulting loads during a crash with a larger child (48 pounds or more) could cause the child's head to move further forward than allowed by Safety Standard 213. In a crash, this additional head movement could allow a child's head to strike something in the vehicle and lead to injury. Lap-shoulder belt and LATCH installations of the Britax Husky are NOT affected by this recall.

All consumers who returned a registration card to Britax automatically received labels and instructions for the application of the labels to be placed over the corresponding instruction in the current users guide and on the restraint cover. These labels instruct consumers that if the Britax Husky child restraint is in use with the lap belt installation to reroute the vehicle lap belt using a short belt path, similar to the path of the LATCH assembly. Please reroute the belt in the manner described on the labels. The installation will take less than three minutes.

Feel free to contact Britax Child Safety, Inc. at 1-888-4BRITAX for questions concerning the Britax Husky. When calling make sure to have the model and manufacture date of the restraint. Auto Safety Hotline is 1-888-327-4236.

The older minivan conked out on us during the summer that year and we went eight months with no vehicle. I did not have the room in my house to store the Britax Husky and money was an issue. I took photos of the Britax Husky and sold it on ebay. I know one should never buy a used car seat, but it had only been in use for several months and was in excellent condition. A carseat should be destroyed if it is involved in a car accident. I had many people wanting me to ship the Britax Husky across the country, but I wnated someone locally to purchase it. I sold it quickly for $90 with the buyer very happy and giving great feedback on how the seat was in better condition than described. I still have her address and send her any information I get from Britax since I am the registered owner with them.

That summer I sold the E-Z-On Vest and the weighted vest Matthew had used years earlier at preschool. In Mayof 2004 I bought through Ebay Motors a 1993 Ford Aerostar from a local person in Los Angeles. Matthew and Nicholas each have their own bucket seats and wear their seatbelts. Over the summer while attending C.A.M.P. I told a parent about the Britax Husky since I saw her using the E-Z-On Vest.

Adapted from a review previously published on Epinions.

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