Getting a haircut might be fun and exciting for some children, but terrifying and an ordeal for some children on the Autism Spectrum. We work on this issue as well as many others within our services and encourage you to contact us now to learn more. Every child is different, so the information below is intended to help, but services from a specialist might be needed for your particular situation.
The first question to ask ourselves is often why is my child not able to get a haircut. The answer is often that they have a bad experience or fear of the items and/or sounds associated with the haircutting process. If this is the case, we have to take a step backwards and build small steps back to the process of haircutting. For some children, the sight of the hair clipper or scissors is enough to cause tantruming and problem behavior. This is often a sign that we have to start back at step 1.
Step 1 can differ for each child, but is often exposing them to the mere sight of the hair clippers and/or scissors. We recommend laying these items out safely near the child so that they know they are there but are not going to be used or “hurt” them. They may have a behavior or attempt to move these items, but do your best to stick to the plan. As the child tolerates these items, move them closer and closer to the child in a safe manner. Some parents use kids' dull scissors for example. For hair trimmers we recommend doing this with them off first and then with them turned on so they get used to the sound of them. Be sure to use a lot of reinforcement and even let them play with a toy they really like that is only used during this process.
Now that your child will tolerate the item near them, it is time to get close with the item. Without using or turning the item on, you are going to take it near their head carefully and safely for a quick second. Then slowly increase the time up to the time a haircut might take over the course of several days. Remember you are not touching it to their head yet at this point. For hair trimmers we recommend doing this with them off first and then with them turned on so they get used to the sound of them. Be sure to use a lot of reinforcement and even let them play with a toy they really like that is only used during this process.
Once this has been accomplished, it is time to touch your child’s head with the item. You are going to carefully trim a small piece of hair off with the scissors and/or hair trimmer. Keep in mind not to schedule family photos around this time as the hair cut will take a few days likely to get done. So, now you have gotten the first piece of hair cut or trimmed. Be sure to use alot of reinforcement and even let them play with a toy they really like that is only used during this process.
Increase the number of times you take a cut or trim of the hair until you child will tolerate an entire haircut. You want to get a lot of practice in and since hair doesn’t grow back quickly, take small amounts at a time. Please note that this program is typically done in the home, but you may want to slowly take them to your local salon and slowly expose them once they have completed these stages as that environment might itself be overwhelming for them and you don’t want to lose that progress. We encourage you to contact us (link) today to find out more about this and other programs that we offer.
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