Taking children to get a haircut can be challenging for any parent. For the parent of a child on the autism spectrum, a trip to get a haircut can be very stressful. Sensitivities to the sounds of electric clippers, the feeling of cut hair on the skin, and lighting, all in an unfamiliar environment, can send a child on the autism spectrum into a panic. Hopefully, with some forethought and planning, your next trip to get a haircut will be less stressful for both you and your child.
• Observe your child during the haircut and take notes if necessary. What is it in particular that bothers him? (Is it the lighting, the sound, the feeling of cut hair on his neck?)
• Schedule a hair cut when your child is least likely to be on sensory overload or overwhelmed. What is the best time of the day for your child? Try to avoid scheduling haircuts when your child is hungry, ill, or tired.
• Try to find a salon or barber who has distractions available (i.e. a television).
• Keep styles simple so haircuts do not take as long.
• For a child that is sensitive to the buzz sounds of the clippers or the snap of the scissors, try using soft ear plugs. Let your child listen to his favorite music. While regular headphones will not work during a haircut, smaller “earbuds” will.
• For a child that is sensitive to loose hairs on his/her skin, be sure to use a cape and put a towel around his/her neck. Let the child hold a washcloth over his/her face.
• Do not use the word “haircut.” Use the words “hair trimmed.” Your child may associate the word cut with being injured.
• Develop a routine for haircuts. Does your child need a trim every two weeks or once a month? Try to schedule them for the same day of the week and time of day, if possible.
• Let your child handle the clippers, comb, etc., so he/she will become more comfortable with the items.
• Reward your child with a special activity, snack, etc.
• Be sure to reassure your child during the haircut. For example, “Good job sitting still!”
• If leaving the house proves to be too much, purchase your own clippers and scissors.
• When the haircut is done, tell your child how nice he/she looks.