For children with sensory issues, a haircut can be a nightmare. Here are some simple tools and ideas that have worked for my son, that may work for your child!
For haircuts, there are so many factors to consider. If your child is saying that the hair hurts him, it could be related to the hair falling on him. I read a book written by a non-speaking autistic girl who said that when she gets her hair cut the pieces of hair falling on her skin feel like thousands of little razor blades to her. My son is also sensitive to the hair falling on him. We cut his hair at home and have tried getting him to wear a cape like hairdressers use, but he can’t tolerate that either because it’s too tight around his neck. So we use a product called the AirCut that could be worth a try for you. It’s basically like a Flowbee, but instead of having to attach something to your vacuum cleaner, it just plugs directly into your wall. We tried it for my son last summer and it didn’t end up working out for him because he wouldn’t let us anywhere near him with it, but I tried it on my younger son to try to model the process and it actually worked pretty well. My younger son said it didn’t pull at all and it did a really good job of sucking up everything that it was cutting so the hair wasn’t falling on his shoulders. The best part is that the company has a really good 30 day return policy, so you can basically try it risk free. Since it didn’t work for us, we were able to send it back for a full refund and the customer service was excellent.
Another thing we have tried that has worked pretty well for my son is Calming Clippers. These won’t help with the hair falling on his skin, but they are a great replacement for electric clippers. These function similarly to electric clippers in terms of the cut you get with them, but they eliminate the noise and make it easier to prevent any pulling sensations, which my son is incredibly sensitive to.
Something else that I have found helpful is to provide some calming/regulating sensory input before attempting a haircut. For my son, deep pressure is very calming so giving him a massage and/or brushing him with a Wilbarger Brush before a haircut can help. If you’re not familiar with the Wilbarger brush and/or protocol, I don’t recommend trying that without the guidance of an Occupational therapist because if you don’t do it correctly it can actually be very dysregulating. Speaking of which, a good occupational therapist is a great professional to have on your child’s care team!
Jennifer Rainey is the mom of amazing teen with autism, apraxia and sensory processing disorder. She is a passionate advocate for her son and incredibly resourceful when it comes to advocating or finding creative solutions for her family! Reach out to her on Vitalxchange through our Ask an Expert program!