Last week I talked about helping your child with autism look their best by overcoming or finding alternatives to help them through sensory struggles that can come with clothing. Staying with this same theme, I want to talk this week about haircuts. Obviously, there are a lot of sensory aspects that go into getting your hair cut; spraying the hair to get it damp, the noise and vibration from clippers, the feeling as the cut hair falls onto the skin, not to mention just the touching of the hair in general and all the various noises happening in a salon. If you are a boy like my Damion, and blessed with super thick hair that grows really fast, you can be in for quite a continuous struggle every couple of weeks to keep up with these dreaded haircuts. So, the question as always is: What can we do to better this experience for them? Or what can we do to help it become easier at least?
1. Sensory Cuts
There are places out there that offer hair cuts specifically to people who struggle to get them due to sensory issues. The basic aspects of a sensory cut would be to minimize as much of the sensory inputs as possible. One of the main ways that is done is by limiting the number of customers in the area. For this reason, the ones that I am aware of will open on separate days, or dedicate after-hours times to see our friends with sensory issues. They generally set aside more time than is generally booked for other customers as well to perform the cut. I don’t know for sure how prevalent these places are, but I do know of a wonderful one close by where we live in Bellefontaine, OH. The company is The Lock Shop Salon and their stylist Lauren (who has a child on the spectrum herself) decided to start what she calls “Sensory Sundays”. Lauren is fantastic and if you live nearby the area and are interested in scheduling a Sensory Sunday appointment don’t hesitate to reach out. Their website information can be found here.
2. Accommodating Stylist
If you don’t have options nearby for someone who performs sensory cuts, you can always inquire with your current barber or hairdresser to see if they would be willing to help do something similar for your child. We did this once in the past when wanting to get a specific barber style haircut for our boys, where we reached out to a local barber that we knew and told him all of our concerns. He offered to open his shop up after hours for our boys to get their cuts. He was so nice and so patient with both of our boys. I am not always a fan of having to go the extra mile and ask for special accommodations, but I’ve found generally when I have to most people are extremely kind and willing to help.
3. Do it yourself
This can be a tricky one if it is not something you have attempted in the past, but at our house I have been trimming up my husband’s hair for years just due to convenience and time restraints in our schedule. So, in the days before I knew sensory cuts were around and was too shy to ask for special accommodations, I just tried my hand at cutting the boys hair myself. I don’t do anything fancy, just a buzzed bottom and a bit longer on top. But we can work through the hard parts a bit at a time. I can let them watch a favorite show or video while we work through it, give breaks as needed, and generally give a reward at the end to help the experience end on a good note. After school therapies, kids’ activities, and everything else that puts constraints on any free time we have means that saving a trip to the salon is just a bit easier sometimes, especially for an activity like this that the kids don’t look forward to. I am no professional, but I can do a good enough job to get by until we can go back to a professional again. Just like everything else, establishing a good routine, even at just a cut at home, is the big key to helping them overcome a lot of their struggles.
Haircuts for kids with sensory issues can be so stressful. I know a lot of parents who struggle with this to the point they will just buzz off all their boy’s hair because it is fast and allows them to wait a longer amount of time between cuts. If this is something that you have found works for you then that is fine too, but if you are looking for a cut that is a bit more in style to help your child on the spectrum continue to look their best, hopefully one of the suggestions about will work for your family too.