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Understanding the Struggles Autistic Children Face During Haircuts

Understanding the Struggles Autistic Children Face During Haircuts

Haircuts are an essential part of personal grooming, but for autistic children (and adults) they can be a sensory overload nightmare. The sensory sensitivities that often accompany autism can make the experience of getting a haircut incredibly distressing. Some of the reasons behind this struggle can include:

1. Sensory Sensitivities:

Many autistic individuals have heightened sensitivities to sensory stimuli, such as touch, sound, and light. The sensation of scissors or clippers against their skin, the sound of the shears, and the sensation of hair falling on their face can be overwhelming.

2. Unfamiliar Environments:

Hair salons or barbershops are unfamiliar and often noisy places. The unfamiliarity of the environment, coupled with the sensory stimuli, can trigger anxiety and meltdowns in autistic children.

3. Fear of the Unknown:

Autistic children thrive on routine and predictability. The unpredictability of a haircut – not knowing how long it will take, how it will feel, or what the end result will be – can be anxiety-inducing. It can also make it hard for us to choose what style of haircut we want, especially if we want a style that we know we will take longer or will involve more hair being cut off.

4. Tactile Issues:

The sensation of a cape draped around their shoulders, the sensation of water, and the touch of a stylist's hands can be overwhelming for children with touch sensitivities.

So, what can you do to help an autistic child get their hair cut? Here are some tips to make the whole experience more manageable:

1. **Choose the Right Stylist:** Look for a hairstylist who has experience working with autistic clients or is willing to be patient and accommodating. Discuss your child's specific needs and sensory sensitivities with the stylist beforehand.

2. **Sensory Preparation:** Gradually introduce sensory experiences related to haircuts in a comfortable setting. Let your child touch and feel the tools used during a haircut, like combs and scissors, to desensitize them.

3. **Sensory Tools:** Bring sensory tools to the salon, such as fidget toys or noise-canceling headphones, to help your child stay calm during the haircut.

4. **Visual Supports:** Use visual supports like social stories or visual schedules to prepare your child for what to expect during the haircut. This can help reduce anxiety by providing a sense of predictability.

5. **Comfortable clothing:** Dress your child in comfortable clothing, and bring a familiar cape or cloth from home if that provides comfort.

6. **Breaks and Rewards:** Schedule breaks during the haircut, allowing your child to take short breaks to regroup. Reward them with their favorite treat or activity once the haircut is complete.

7. **Practice Patience:** Be patient and understanding throughout the process. Your child may need multiple attempts to become comfortable with haircuts.

While haircuts can be challenging for autistic children, with the right strategies and support, the experience can become more manageable and less distressing. It's essential to prioritise your child's comfort and well-being, and by working together with a supportive stylist, you can help your child conquer this common sensory hurdle. Remember that every child is unique, and what works best may vary from one individual to another. With patience and understanding, you can make haircuts a less stressful experience and celebrate small victories along the way.

For more resources to help with hair cuts, click here

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