Haircut sensory issues disabilities autism. Oh how I wish those words just flowed together.
I had a pain in my chest while trying to get to sleep. In the morning, it was worse. It was at the top of my breast, so I felt a brief moment of panic. When I checked it before my shower, it really hurt and panic struck me again. I vowed to call my doctor as soon as I got out of the shower. But then I looked down. I had a huge bruise right above my right breast. It wasn’t a lump or breast cancer. It was clearly an injury/bruise.
“What the…how did I get that?” I thought to myself.
Oh, right. Kevin’s haircut.
Yes, the day before, I had to restrain Kevin for his haircut. And in the melee, I ended up getting a few kicks to the chest, since I had his arms in restraint. We were both also covered in tears, slobber, sweat and cut hair. Good times.
One time, he was so bad that the young girl doing it actually said “I’m sorry, I don’t think I can finish this” so we left with an unfinished haircut! Ugh, it was awful.
So when Joanna of Cookie Cutters of West Chester approached me about a guest post, it took me all of two seconds to say, “Yes, Please!”
I intend to use these tips myself. Kevin has gotten better since that incident, but his behavior and desire towards cooperating during haircuts comes and goes. Hey, he’s got autism and sensory issues….it’s not fun for him. Weird thing is, he loves the dentist and noise of dentist tools. But boy does he hate the sound of hair clippers.
10 Tips for Stress-free Haircuts When Your Child Has Autism or Sensory Issues
Children often times have fears about getting a haircut. For children with sensory issues or Autism, this experience can be frightful or traumatizing. Jeff and Joanna Smith, local parents of two and owners of Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids of West Chester, a salon that caters to all children, including those with special needs, share their top 10 tips for a stress-free haircut for when your child has special needs or sensory issues.
- Talk to your child
It is completely normal to have anxiety about a haircut. If age appropriate, start by talking to your child about whether they feel ready for a haircut and/or if they have any fears or anxieties about it. Some children are more ready and can go straight into a salon for a haircut and some need more time and preparation to feel comfortable.
- Do your research
Once you know how your child is feeling, do your research. Go online, look around town, speak to your neighbors, etc. and analyze the different salon options in your area. Choosing the right salon experience for your child’s needs is crucial.
- Call in advance and speak with a hair stylist
Once you have narrowed down a small selection of salons, call them. Speak with a hairstylist and ask them what the experience is like. Ask if he/she has worked with or is trained to work with children who have special needs or sensory issues, and what care they take when working with them. This interaction will help you hone in your list.
- Inquire about a social story
Once you selected the salon, see if the salon has a social story. A social story is a way to view or read how a social situation will play out step by step. It shows children what they will experience and has pictures of what they will see. For example, at Cookie Cutters, we partnered with the ARC of Chester County to create a social story as a Facebook video and as a hard copy that can be picked up in our salon.
- Visit the salon with your child before an appointment is made
Along with a social story, it can be beneficial to bring your child in for a visit before an appointment is made. We allow parents to visit the salon ahead of time so their child can see, hear and learn about the Cookie Cutters experience before any appointment is booked.
- Make an appointment for an “off” time
Consider making an appointment early in the morning or later in the evening when fewer people are there—the likelihood of distractions, noises, and other factors that can trigger sensory issues is smaller.
- Plan your visit in advance
Once you have your appointment set, plan the haircut experience in advance with your child and the hairstylist who will be performing the haircut. Pick the haircut and style to prepare your child for what to expect, and detail out specifics such as what chair or area of the salon the child wants to be in.
- Have your child engage with the hairstylist
Once at the appointment, encourage your child to interact with the hairstylist. At Cookie Cutters, we’ve found that children who are involved with the experience (picking the style, talking about their day, and providing feedback on if something hurts or feels uncomfortable) are more likely to enjoy their time here.
- Bring toys, videos or games to keep your child occupied
For those children who do not wish to or cannot engage with the hairstylist, be sure to have toys or other sensory items to occupy them. We have video games and shows at every station in our salon for that reason.
- Get your haircut done at the same time
This is often overlooked but when child sees their parent doing something, they are more likely to see the experience as fun, and will be more relaxed during it. As a children’s salon, many people don’t think we offer adult haircuts, but we do! No matter where you go, consider asking for a haircut at the same time as your child to help calm their nerves. Just be sure to be in the chair right next to them.
Thanks Joanna and those are some great tips. I know that we haven’t done all of those things each time he’s gotten a haircut. I would also say–know your child, if they are tired of having a bad day, reschedule. We now do more scissors work than clipper work, even though it takes longer. I overpay and tip well, because I want them to know that I appreciate them.