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How to choose a special needs helmet?

head protection for special needs

There are lots of different protective hats & helmets on the market that claim to protect from injuries from falls, seizures and other problems such as headbanging & self-harm. The choices can seem overwhelming & of course you will always want the best protection possible, the following points may help you to choose one that meets your criteria and provides the maximum protection in the areas that you need.

Is there a pattern to the injuries?

If you are looking at purchasing a protective hat or helmet the first thing to ask should be – is there a pattern to the injuries? Do injuries tend to happen primarily in one area i.e. on the face or the back of the head or in other areas? This should be communicated to the helmet provider who will recommend the correct models to provide the best protection.

Frontal impacts

If injuries happen primarily to the face, then a helmet with a face guard, face bar or an extended visor may be of help as these are designed to deflect the impact force away from the face. A full-face visor is very effective at absorbing frontal impacts however some wearers find them claustrophobic and can restrict their vision, some prefer to have cheek guards built in to the head protector, in conjunction with a face bar which still offers frontal protection. A padded chin guard is always a good option if a person falls forwards.

Rearward impacts

If falls or injuries are at the back of the head, from rearward impacts then a protector with a built-in impact pad which deflects the force around the helmet, should be considered. At the very least in these cases, choose a helmet or hat that protects the back of the head (occipital area), helmets that protect this area are normally slightly longer at the back. If there is an equal risk of forwards or rearward impacts then there are models of protection that can handle this risk by incorporating all of the above safeguards into a single helmet.

Impacts to the top of the head

These type of injury patterns are quite rare and are normally the result of a persons need for sensory feedback, where a person repeatedly hits a hard surface. This can mean repeated blows to the back, front or top of the head. With this type of behaviour we would recommend requesting a “closed top” model of head protection. All of the models in our head protection range have the option of a closed top, however if the behaviour is very common we would suggest you look at the HP3 model and upwards, as these models incorporate additional padding to counter these impacts. We can also provide semi-open or half tops, with or without ventilation/airflow holes.

No pattern to injuries?

If there is no pattern to the injuries i.e. impacts can be anywhere on or around the head, then a head protector with good “all round” protection is a good idea, preferably a model that can offer additional protection that can be added in the future if the frequency and severity of impacts worsens. Many basic protection devices will protect the front, sides and back of the head to varying degrees, while providing an open or semi-open top to promote airflow.

Always fit a chin strap to your head protector!

It is always advisable choose a protector with a chin strap that can be adjusted so that it is a snug fit. If there is no chinstrap then the chances of the helmet falling or moving off the head during a fall or impact are greatly increased. To improve the protective qualities of a helmet a good fit is important. If a helmet is to loose then the chances of it falling off when it is needed most are increased. If a helmet is too tight it will be uncomfortable and probably too hot, invariably the wearer will want to remove it at the first chance they have.

measuring for special needs head protection hat or helmet

Measuring for head protection

When ordering a head protector, it is important to obtain the correct head circumference, as well as the correct measurement over the top of the head (normally measured from ear to ear) and from the occipital to the eyebrows, which many people do not appreciate. We have an order form that shows exactly which measurements are needed and illustrations to give guidance. If there is a space between the top of the head and the inside of the helmet then the impact resistance of the materials is generally reduced as this space provides no protection at all! Providing accurate measurements will help to prevent the helmet coming off or twisting/moving during an impact.

perfect fit head scanning for head protection

Perfect Fit™ head scanning option for difficult cases

If a person has proximity issues then taking measurements can be a thankless task, from experience someone who does not want to be measured or have people close by or touching them, will become angry or agitated and distressed by the process. In these cases we highly recommend investing in a head scan which is perfect in these situations and can be used to obtain exact measurements without touching or causing any distress. 24-7 Healthcare has such a system called Perfect Fit™. Which is then used to produce a 3D print of the head which is then used to produce a perfectly fitting head protector. This service is also recommended if there are any existing wounds or anomalies on the users cranium, as these areas can then be accounted for when the helmet is produced.

Link to our Perfect Fit Service (will open in new tab)

Hard cycle helmets for special needs?

We have seen a number of customers present to us in bicycle or skateboard helmets. While these will certainly help to deflect some impacts, they will be no use for frontal facial impacts as they generally have no face, nose, cheek or chin protection. These types of helmets are not made to protect people with medical needs who suffer multiple impacts. As well as having no shock dampening properties, they can also be quite heavy and uncomfortable for users when worn for longer periods.

Hard or soft helmets?

If a person suffers from seizures or fits, then by wearing a hard helmet of the sort previously mentioned, they can unintentionally threaten those in close proximity due to the consequences of a hard helmet impacting other people when a person is having a seizure. This is one of the reasons we highly recommend soft helmets.

Style and function

The majority of head protectors come in choices of style and colours, there are head protection ranges that look like normal hats however their use is limited to those who only have minor impacts and they are certainly not suitable for those who have falls or sustain repeated impacts such as those with autism who are “headbanging” or engaging in repetitive behavior that causes injuries. Although these types of models may be more appealing to those who don’t want to look different to their peers, they will not offer the same level of protection as a properly fitted model matched to the problems of the individual.

Leather or cotton outer layer?

Most standard head protectors are available in a cotton or material finish, most of our cotton finished head protectors are hand washable or at the very least can be spot cleaned. Cotton promotes airflow and helps to keep the head protector cool when worn, however if the helmet or hat is subjected to harsh treatment it can fray or split over time.

Leather outer models are generally used for helmets that offer long lasting protection for more severe conditions as the leather itself acts as a barrier to impacts and is less likely to be damaged less by impacts or harsh treatment. The leather can be cleaned using soap and water and can also be cleaned using non toxic & hypo-allergenic cleaning & conditioning agents that are readily available. Our helmets with a leather outer generally also have a perforated inner liner which promotes cooling and regulates temperature. This inner liner can also be cleaned just like the outer layer.

Help is on-hand if you need it!

We offer help & advice regarding all of our head protection models, you can talk to our advisors who can help you decide on a model of head protection based on your individual needs. We are able to customise most models to incorporate the protective measures that you require.

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