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These flotation devices keep disabled kids safe

Water wings don’t' work for everyone.

4 different floaties on display (one containing a child using it) in front of a background. Credit: Water Way Babies / Kiefer / Rehab Mart / Life Jacket-Adapted / Reviewed

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As a parent of a 10-year-old son with cerebral palsy, I am always looking for ways to adapt activities to include him more easily. He loves to swim, which provides great exercise, is therapeutic, and is lots of fun, but he needs assistance. I often spend time holding him and helping him in the pool. Like any kid, he wants his independence, and the right floatie can make that happen.

I reached out to friends, physical therapists, and the internet at large to create this list of disability-friendly flotation devices for kids. These are some of the highest-rated special needs pool floats on the market.

1. Kiefer Cushion Float Collar

A Kiefer life jacket in front of a background.
Credit: Kiefer / Reviewed

There's no need to inflate this neck floatie.

The design of the Kiefer Cushion Float Collar is a similar concept to the Water Way Babies float listed below, but instead of a circular plastic ring, this collar is a flat, 2-inch-thick, foam oval that does not need to be inflated. The foam collar goes around the user’s head and can be fastened with a clip.

$58 at Amazon

2. Nekdoodle Swimming Pool Float

a blue nekdoodle float on a colorful background
Credit: Amazon / Reviewed

The Nekdoodle Pool Float is beloved by swimmers and physical therapists alike. It provides great mobility with no inflation required.

The Nekdoodle flotation device is similar to the Kiefer Float Collar, but it’s sold at slightly lower price. Made of EVA foam with a special vinyl coating, this product is championed by users and physical therapists alike. In fact, the product is so beloved that its innovative design was recognized by the Aquatic Therapy Dolphin Award for its contribution to the aquatic therapy industry.

The small, circular pillow weighs about 12 ounces and can support persons up to 300 lbs of weight. Just place the floatie over the neck, and the rest of your body is free to explore the water with as much mobility as the wearer can handle. It’s no wonder why this product is listed as one of the better pool floats with a special-needs focus.

$38 at Amazon

3. WaterWayBabies neck flotation device

A child wearing a neck floating device.
Credit: Water Way Babies / Reviewed

The perfect inflatable neck floatie.

WaterWayBabies makes a float with a very simple design. It’s a blow-up ring that circles the individual’s neck, keeping their head afloat, but their body free to move about the water. It comes in three different sizes, small, medium and large, that are all priced at $45 each. Their website touts the strength-building properties of hydrotherapy for people with developmental needs.

Shop WaterWayBabies

4. Danmar Sectional Raft Swim Aid

A man wearing the Danmar Sectional Raft Swim Aid while another man helps him around a pool.
Credit: The Wright Stuff

A good way to support the entire body above water.

The Danmar Sectional Raft Swim Aid is a float made of eight foam panels, a head support, and two shoulder straps. Unlike a traditional floaties that keep an individual above the water, the Swim Aid supports the body in the water. And, it provides a lot more support to the entire body than most small, square floats. It’s available in small or large, and ranges from 36 to 74 inches long.

This float doesn’t offer the flexibility of an adjustable seat, but it will definitely help keep your loved ones safe below the surface of the water.

$254 at Health Products For You

5. Life Jacket-Adapted Inc.

Picture of a boy and a man wearing the life jacket in the water in front of a background.
Credit: Life Jacket-Adapted / Reviewed

Many different models for different needs make Life Jacket-Adapted a good choice.

The Life Jacket-Adapted Inc. site carries several life jackets for people with disabilities. Each model is slightly different, and these variations give the user flexibility depending on their ability to tolerate more or less of the water. For example, one model allows the user to float on their back or their stomach as well as to stretch their body out flat.

Another jacket model looks more rigid and only allows the user on their stomach or back, but not lying flat. A third variant looks the most solid, the user remains in a horizontal position while wearing the float. These items range in size and price to accommodate people between 18 to 250 pounds and from $170 to $440. The Life Jacket-Adapted Inc. factory is located in Canada, but they ship internationally.

Shop at Life Jacket-Adapted Inc.

6. Theraquatics

A boy wearing a floatie in the water with the support of his mother.
Credit: Theraquatics

More variety to suit your needs!

The Theraquatics site sells a large variety of fabric floatation devices that are chlorine-resistant and latex-free. The flotation products range from a simple neck collar, which supports the head, to a swim ring that goes around the waist, or a body sling that supports both the neck and the back. This site also sells pool games, flotation mats, kickboards, swim diapers, pool toys, and even a water collar for dogs.

Shop at Theraquatics

7. Dolphin Buoyancy Float System

The Dolphin Buoyancy Float System in front of a background.
Credit: Rehab Mart / Reviewed

For the more experienced swimmer looking for some support.

The Dolphin Buoyancy Float System for Aquatic Therapy is better for a user who has trunk control and some experience swimming, but still needs help distributing body weight in the water to remain in the upright position. The foam pads are not supposed to sink or absorb water, and the product is available in small or large sizes for around $200.

$235 at Rehabmart

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.