Haircuts and even simple hair brushing can become a problem when caring for a child with autism or other sensory related disorders. Behaviors such as tantrums, screaming, biting, hitting, and meltdowns that leave a parent exhausted, frustrated, and begging for a moment’s mercy are often the result of simply mentioning doing something to the hair.
So what can you do?
Being autistic children are hypersensitive, you may even have a child who experiences syneasthasia, the sensory occurrence where their senses mix up and an event or happening becomes too much for them. Many children dislike a deviation from their norms and familiar environments where they feel they have control are what they often need. Autism, accentuated by environmental factor is a very interesting and complex genetic disorder.
As a side note, as reported in a 2012 study regarding the prevalence of hair toxic metal concentrations seeming to be more common in children diagnosed with moderate to severe ASD, there is no evidence to state whether this is why autistic children are adverse to having their hair cared for, but it is something to be considered.
How to accomplish hassle-free brushed and styled hair?
Stimulate the scalp beforehand. A head massage, ruffling the hair, or anything that has nothing to do with brushing or styling at the hair will help you transition into the brushing and styling process.
Instead of heavy clips or thin elastics that can tug, grab or get the hair caught/tangles, use soft hair accessories like a scrunchie, soft-tipped clips or any other accessories that do not tug as much.
Use a blunt-tipped brush/comb: as it is recommended for detangling hair by beauty salons, a wide-tooth comb works well. Stay away from brushes unless they are blunt-tipped and necessary for styling.
How to get the hair cut meltdown-free?
- Ready them with a detailed descriptions of the hair cutting process
- Show them a picture of how their hair might look after the haircut.
- Demonstrate how it might look by cutting a bit of your own hair or a doll’s
- Make sure the haircut is scheduled for when your child is at his or her calmest
- Ask the barber to use a sensitive shampoo as their scalps might respond differently than expected
- Develop a routine for haircuts. Mark the first of each month (or any other day depending on how often you need it) for a trim/cut/etc.
- If there is a sensitivity to the sound of scissors or buzzers near the ear, try using ear plugs
As long as you explain and account for every detail/step of the process you can ease any anxiety that may occur when it comes to hair cutting and styling an autistic child’s hair.
For more information about autism, please visit http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/category/autism-spectrum-disorder/