This is a collaborative post and may not reflect the views or opinions of this blog or its author.
If you have an autistic child, cutting hair can be a struggle. In fact, simple hair brushing can often lead into screaming, meltdowns, hitting, biting, and behavior that quite frankly leaves you feeling exhausted. This is understandable, as most children with autism need environments whereby they feel they are in control, and a haircut is not one of those environments. So, how can you look at your child’s hair without WW3 breaking out? Here are some tips to help you get your child’s hair brushed, cut and cared for…
Getting your child’s haircut without a meltdown occurring
So, let’s deal with getting your child’s haircut first and foremost. If your child needs their hair to be cut, it is important to get them prepared for the experience by giving them as much detail as possible about what is going to happen. Remember, the lack of control is a real issue for children with autism, and so you need to make them feel like they have as much control as possible. One of the best ways to do this is by letting them looking through different hairstyles so they can pick one they are happy with. Of course, it’s probably best to limit what they can choose from to a fade haircut or a short haircut, as you don’t want another issue to arise when they pick something they can’t actually have.
Another method you can use to prepare your child for their hair cut is to demonstrate how the process will go by getting your hair cut first. Plus, although this can be challenging, you should try to schedule the haircut for when your child is at his or her calmest. If you know someone who cuts hair, take advantage of this by asking him or her to come round when suits you. They are bound to be understanding.
It is also a good idea to ask the barber or hairdresser to use shampoo that is sensitive, as their scalp may respond differently than anticipated. You can also buy some earplugs if your child is sensitive to the sound of scissors near their ears. Once you have done all of this, you can develop a haircut routine, which will help your child to get more and more comfortable over time.
Getting your child’s hair brushed and styled without stress
What about getting your child’s hair brushed and styled on a daily basis? The last thing you want is for this to turn into a meltdown every day. There are some steps you can take to minimize the chances of this happening. This includes using a blunt-tipped comb or brush, as well as using soft hair accessories. A soft-tipped clip or a scrunchie is much better than thin elastics or heavy clips. After all, if you use the latter, it can make it feel like the scalp is shrinking, which can cause panic, anger, and fear to appear when someone has autism. Soft accessories will help you to prevent these sudden sensory jolts. No matter what type of hair accessory you use, try to avoid applying it too tightly.
Another tip is to get the scalp stimulated beforehand. This may sound silly or even unnecessary, but you will be surprised by how much of a difference it can make. You can ruffle your child’s hair or give them a gentle head massage to start the process. Anything that does not involve tugging the hair or brushing it is a good way of easing your child into the process of getting their hair brushed and styled.
Hopefully, you now have some suggestions that can be used to help you have more of a stress-free process when you go to care for your child’s hair. A few small changes can go a very long way, such as using softer hair accessories and showing them how their hair may cut after they have had it cut. Of course, if a meltdown does occur, don’t be disheartened. As mentioned, getting into a haircare routine is important, so with every month that passes by, this should hopefully start to become easier and easier.
My 3 year old son has Non Verbal Autism and I can now wash his hair. No water on face whatsoever, have to remove shampoo with a rag.
Hair Brushing and Hair Cuts are so very miserable. Absolutely Hate when it’s time for a haircut. My son screams, throws himself in the floor, kick, scream, hit, bite. He flung his head back and almost bloodied my nose. I saw stars. Will without fear just jump out of the chair or out of my arms. Screams, Screams, and Screams. I am always crying and upset myself feeling guilty for putting him through that and then terrible about everything because I am thinking in the back of my mind what if his hearing so sensitive that I may be causing him actual physical pain and is so intolerable and excruciating pain. I am so stressed from worrying and worrying my self sick. Don’t sleep, relax, or anything. Always on edge if my decisions are the right ones for him.
many Advice please would help. My husband and I are looking for a support group for parents with children with autism. We are so totally lost.
Misti, how are you doing? I totally get it and it’s actually pretty common. You’re not alone here. My youngest used to do the same exact thing.
I don’t think it actually hurt him but it was a combination of the noise, being sorta restrained, the feeling of little hairs touching his skin. My 13 yr old still hates hair cuts because it makes him itch.. I’m going to ask him for some advice. Also, click the support button above and that will take you to my Facebook support group. Lete see what I can do to help. This sounds like it would be a great podcast episode as well. I need to find someone who can help with this. ☺