No, that title is not a typo. It simply makes Tucker laugh – Tucker, today is the day. The day you are getting all of your hairs cut…not just one. We must begin talking about it now – and with humor.
No – it’s not that big of a deal…for most children.
I spend most of the day thinking about it. Not kidding. Not kidding…not one bit.
Looking back it may have been one of the first signs of trouble. I was SO excited for his first haircut.
He screamed through the entire thing – to the point where I was sweating by the time we left. My hopes of having these super cute pictures that other people have of their child’s first haircut? Gone.
If you’ve been reading you know that the autism bran seems to unable to balance the senses. So – a child my have high or low sensitivity to anything they feel/sense while also being unable to combine the senses. When their senses are all out of whack they have a ‘fight or flight’ response. This response is what is referred to as sensory defensiveness.
A haircut? Full of sensory stimulation.
The noise of the clipper.
Someone right next to you, standing over you.
The noise of the scissors.
The hands on your head as the stylist washes.
The smell of the sprays (and other products).
The tug on your hair.
Sitting in a chair where you’re feet don’t touch the ground.
The bright lights.
The leaning back and putting your head on the sink thing.
The reflections from mirrors.
The people all around watching you.
The feeling of hair falling – on your face, your shirt.
The tightness of the cape that goes around you neck.
The unknown of what his happening.
Truly…getting a haircut is sensory overload – at its finest.
Something so simple – I had never, ever considered getting a haircut to be an issue.
But it was…and it is.
In a very strange twist in life on the spectrum you realize that…
- A haircut is a necessity because hair on the ears may drive your child BANANAS (like mine).
- A haircut is among the very difficult experiences to help you child navigate.
We’ve tried several stylists and barbers. The most important lesson I’ve learned…a lesson that I’ve repeated over and over and over again on this blog – patience.
First – we tried different stylists and salons. It just didn’t work – there was just too much going on at a regular salon. Too much of everything.
Next – we went to a barber. There was nothing fancy in his 20 ft. x 20 ft. shop…
When you walked into the shop, the barber acknowledged you, no appointments needed.
If the chairs were full, you could simply sit at one of the two benches in the front of his shop. If there were several people there – we simply left and tried the next day. When it was his turn it was no-nonsense. The barber called his name. Tucker sat in the chair. The barber took the clippers and simply buzzed him. No conversation. In less than five minutes, the cut was done. Then, a lollipop.
This method worked…for awhile – but even then it became difficult. There was screaming on the way home because he was itchy, bribing on our way out the door.
So, I resorted to buying a good, quality home haircutting kit and here are the lessons I’ve learned…
- We ‘do’ haircuts when he is least likely to experience sensory overload. This is the best way to try to control the sensory overload he may experience. I DO NOT do haircuts immediately after school when he’s trying to ‘calm’ or when he is tired.
- I give him plenty of things to take his mind off of what is happening – yes, that may even mean a popsicle while I’m buzzing his hair. I used to put on his favorite song on repeat and we would simply sing that over and over again until the cut was done.
- We stay in a routine. Cuts in the middle of the month – always. Cuts right before shower time – always. Cuts in the evening – always.
- Bribe if needed – but try to accomplish without bribing…as much as possible.
- Explain the process. Give updates on your progress.
- Do the haircut in front of the television – anything to keep his mind off what is really happening.
- Take off all clothes but underwear. Now…I know some would need to be completely covered to avoid the falling hair. HOWEVER, we have found that just having underwear allows the hair to simply fall off his skin onto the floor. It also limits the amount of hair tracked from the ‘hair cutting place’ to the shower. Which is where he heads immediately after the cut.
- Try to catch as much hair as possible when it’s coming out of the trimmer.
- Cut it as short as possible – this prevents the needs for cutting often.
- Get it done. Don’t mess around. When you get him in the chair and he’s ready…get moving. You don’t have much time before the first real freak-out.
- Stay calm – reassure that you are almost done.
The final piece of advice? Admire the finished product. Again and again and again – tell your child what a great job they did (even if you’re sweating because of the stress). Eventually…it should get easier. I’ve been cutting his hair for seven years. There are times when it’s still not great – but it’s getting better. Slowly, but surely we’re both learning and developing a better process.
Thank goodness…because tonight is the night.