Here are some more ideas about dealing with your kid’s haircuts. This is an excerpt from my latest work, Crossing the Hurdles of Haircuts, which is available both as a free downloadable white paper, and as a printed, bound book.
What It Might Mean for You – Other Coping Ideas from Aspie-Land
If you’re the parent of an Aspie/sensory kid, and your child is having trouble with haircuts, you may want to pay close attention to the physical environment in which they get their hair cut. Is it loud? Is it bright? Are there lots of smells? Are there sudden sounds? Is s/he wearing clothing that’s comfortable for them? Are they well-supported where they sit?
If your kid is anything like me, having a quiet, evenly lighted (not fluorescent — those bulbs make me crazy!), non-smelly (including no plug-in “air fresheners” or other perfumes) environment, where there aren’t a lot of people, and the ones who are talk quietly and calmly and don’t demand constant interaction… that’s the ideal place to have a haircut.
If you cut their hair at home, how about if you have your child watch a video while you cut their hair? (I’ve actually heard of salons/hair stylists offering that for kids who come to them.) Give them something to occupy their senses, so they’re not overwhelmed by the grooming experience. If your kid is utterly fixated on Thomas the Tank Engine, they might not even notice the haircut while you’re giving it to them, if they’re watching a video of Thomas.
Or give them something to hold… something that has a sensation they like. When I was a kid, silky fabric soothed me like nothing else*, so being able to rub something satiny chilled me right out. Nowadays, when I need to just bite the bullet and get through a tough situation, I’ll sometimes hold a piece of Velcro (the sharp side) firmly between my fingers to focus my sensory, physical attention and get my mind off everything else around me. Or I’ll (secretly) carry around a rough piece of napkin or fabric to rub between my fingers — the rougher, the better (although I have to be careful, as I’ve sometimes actually worn down my finger pads with too much intense rubbing on rough surfaces!). I hold the wad of coarse paper in my pocket, out of sight of everyone, and chafe away. It saves my nerves, and it saves everyone around me from being vexed by my issues.
Does your child have a favorite toy or object that they refuse to part with under regular circumstances? Maybe they could hold that while they get a trim.
Maybe you can give your child something to hold and a video to watch.
I think it’s also brilliant to give kids fair warning about them getting a haircut ahead of time, and let them prepare for it mentally and emotionally. We Aspies tend to do better, if we have advance warning. Something as simple as a hug can be very uncomfortable (even painful) for us, if we don’t have a chance to prepare for it. But if we know we’re about to get a hug from someone, we can sometimes “brace for contact” and then reciprocate without looking and/or feeling uncomfortable to others.
Same thing with larger-scale unpleasant experiences — like haircuts, and more. My nephew — who is about as textbook Aspie as they come — refused to take medicine to bring down a fever… until, that is, we explained to him what was going to happen, the steps we were going to go through, what the nasty-tasting syrup was for, and we did a few “trial runs” of taking it, using some juice in a teaspoon for practice. We told him up front that the medicine tasted awful, but that’s because it’s very powerful and that’s how it needs to taste to do its important work. (My nephew actually developed an instant respect for the medicine because it was so powerful — it was something he could appreciate.) We did not sugar-coat the process or play it down, but gave him all the information he needed to prepare mentally for the experience of taking it. When the time came for his dose, he didn’t like it, but he did take it, and he started to get better. We praised him a great deal afterwards, which just made his day. He’s such a perfectionist that hearing praise for even the smallest thing really brightened him up. After that, he knew what to expect from the experience, and he knew he could succeed at it. There were no more issues around him taking his medicine, which was a very good thing.
The same sort of practice may help your Aspie kid to prepare for the inevitable discomfort and agitation of a haircut. You can tell them what it’s all for, why it’s necessary, and offer a reward afterwards. The more information we Aspies can get so we feel in control of a situation, the better. It’s not logistical difficulties that causes us distress, like with NT kids, it’s the unknown. Preparation on all levels helps us Aspies more than I can say.