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10 Tips for Getting your Autistic Child Through a Haircut

July 15, 2019

This blog content courtesy of Public Health Library

For many parents of children with Autism, getting their haircut can be a traumatic experience for both them and their child.  It is a task that needs to be done but the thought of it fill us parents with dread! Over the years we have tried numerous strategies from cutting his hair ourselves at home (with some interesting haircuts resulting!) home visits from hairdressers to visits to the barbers.

Many kids on the spectrum also have sensory issues and hate having their hair cut. It is as if the act of cutting causes them physical pain – like they have feeling in their hair!

Here is what one parent had to say about their experience with cutting their son’s hair

“Over the years we have persevered and whilst it is still something of a tactical operation we seemed to have more or less cracked it. We’ve found an understanding barber who we’ve been going to for a few years now – my son knows them and vice versa. We go as a family and Dad has his haircut at the same time in the next chair with Mom on standby to deal with an impending crisis.  He can even tolerate a short stint with the clippers now and the promise of a treat (usually a visit to a café for some cake!) often helps us get though the final few minutes when he’s starting to get fidgety.

Haircuts and Special Needs Kids– 10 Tips for Getting Through it!

  • Find an understanding hairdresser. Whether having your child’s hair cut at home or at a barbers or salon, talk to the hairdresser beforehand about your child, their condition and how they may react. You may want to provide them with some information and give them some tips and suggestions on how to handle certain situations (for example speaking calmly and using short simple sentences).
  • Introduce you child gradually to the hairdresser – visit the salon and watch someone they know (a sibling, friend or Dad) having a haircut.
  • Prepare your child for the haircut by marking it on the calendar with a haircut symbol so they know when it is coming. Try to visit at a quiet time of day when you are unlikely to have to wait too long – or book an appointment explaining to the hairdresser that missing the allotted time could have consequences!
  • Use a timer in at the start of the cut so your child knows how long it is going to last.
  • Use social stories to explain about haircuts and to prepare for the visit to the hairdresser.
  • Many children with autism are very sensitive to the noise of clippers. Either ask the hairdresser to use scissors only and/or use earplugs to block out some of the noise. You could also use a personal music player/iPod with your child’s favorite music or stories to distract them and block out some of the background noise.
  • Fidget toys may also be useful to keep your child occupied during the haircut – a favorite toy may provide some comfort and keep them distracted.
  • A weighted lap pad, jacket or hug vest could be used to keep them calm and reduce anxiety whilst in the barber’s chair.
  • If your child is having their hair washed, ask the hairdresser not to use a strongly scented shampoo – taking your own shampoo which will smell familiar to your child maybe be better. You could ask the hairdresser to the water spray to dampen the hair, turning in this into a fun activity for your child (get your child to spray the water on themselves for example.
  • We always find a small reward like a lollipop at the end of the haircut works wonders and can be used as an incentive for the next visit.

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