For some people, getting a haircut is a therapeutic experience — from getting your tresses washed and your scalp massaged, to hearing the snipping of scissors and finally finishing with a new, refreshed look. However, this same experience can be a nightmare for children with special needs.
According to a study from the University of London, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are naturally more sensitive to their surroundings, which means that haircuts can be too much of a sensory overload for them to handle. Furthermore, Maryville University psychologists argue that mental health and learning development are closely linked. This implies that the emotional events that children go through can impact how they progress in life, even more so children with special needs.
To help in this particular situation, here are some tips to keep in mind the next time your kids are due for a haircut.
Have them put on some goggles
Children with ASD can easily get aggravated when they get water in their eyes. So if their hair needs washing, having them wear googles can make the overall experience a lot more pleasant. Just make sure they’re properly fitted and they don’t hurt their head.
Wash their hair for them
In line with the above point, children with special needs often feel uncomfortable when strangers touch their scalp. Therefore, try washing their hair at home right before you take them for a haircut.
Avoid using the word “cut”
Cutting can sound incredibly scary (and painful) – especially for a child who’s hypersensitive to the world around them. Instead, use friendlier words like “tidy,” “done,” or “look prettier,” so they can be more accepting of the idea of a haircut.
Distract them with a movie
Introducing more noise might sound counterproductive, but having your child watch movies can help them forget that they’re getting a haircut in the first place. Put on their favorite cartoon, or play cute animal videos. An article on The Conversation shows how autistic children are naturally fascinated by animals, so watching some furry friends while getting a haircut could help take their mind off things.
Make them wear ear plugs
If they’re extremely sensitive to noise, the cheapest solution is to make them wear ear plugs. Like goggles, ensure they’re soft enough to feel comfortable, but sturdy enough to block out the sounds altogether.
Promise them a reward
Many behavioral therapists like to use a technique called Applied Behavioral Therapy, which uses a rewards or “reinforcements” system as a tool for building skills and behaviors in children with autism. Haircuts are no different. If you want your child to be more open to the idea of getting their hair done, offer them something fun as an incentive. Depending on what your child likes, it can be ice cream, a new toy, or a simple hug. The point is to give them something to look forward to, to ease the stress.
Haircuts and other everyday events can be difficult for our loved ones with ASD, but it’s not impossible. With a little preparation and patience, you and your child can get through it. The most important part is to let them know that you’re there to hold their hand every step of the way.
Exclusively written for otsimo.com
By: Amber Grace