Saturday, January 10, 2009

Why are Haircuts a Sensory Nightmare?

I really dreaded this day for a long time. When Logan turned 1, we got him his first haircut at one of those fancy kid salons. He cried and fought the whole time and we couldn't even finish. It cost us a small fortune too. There were cars to sit in, videos to watch, toys to play with but Logan didn't see any of that. He was just terrified. (Pictured: Logan at 12 months)

Now Spencer is almost 2 and has never gotten a professional haircut. I have always cut his hair while he was in the bathtub because I knew he would likely have a fit of terror at a salon. However, his hair was growing too long and he now had more hair which meant that I could no longer cover up all the mistakes I made whenever I cut his hair.

It was time to bite the bullet. This time we didn't take Spencer to a fancy kid salon which we knew would be a total waste of money. Instead, we took him to a neighborhood salon run by Chinese immigrants with bubble gum pink walls and fake flowers hanging everywhere. We knew the hairdresser was nice. That was all that mattered. I had hoped that since Spencer was older now, he would do well but boy was I wrong! Spencer used all his might to try to run away and he cried so hard that his nose was non-stop running and he was even drooling too!

To this day, it amazes me that this is actually a sensory issue. What is it about a haircut or washing hair that terrifies them so much? And what can help them with this issue?

Logan finally started cooperating by the time he was 4. It took that long. Hopefully Spencer will get the hang of it sooner. Maybe the new OT can help. We're still praying that the best OT of his life will finally come and take over his case any minute now.
(Pictured: Spencer's traumatic haircut today)


Autismland Penny said...

Do you do brushing with him? Brushing him beforehand would help. I had my mom cut Logan's hair for years. It took her several days to get it done. I had to accept a bad hair cut sometimes but we didn't have the fight. He still hates it at 11 but brushing him beforehand helps him to stand it.

Anonymous said...

Penny, thanks for writing. Since Spencer doesn't have an OT, I have started to brush him every day but these boys really have some water/facial/hair defensiveness. Logan has gotten much better though. Spencer actually let the lady finish which I had to take as a good sign.

Autismland Penny said...

Yeah, that is a good sign. Perhaps he'll get better as he gets used to it. Another idea that worked for us was to be wrap him in a sheet so that no hair fell on him and to brush it off his face immediately. Keep plugging along. It does get easier as they get older!!! Praying for you and your family

Anonymous said...

I'd suggest doing it at home with a set of clippers. I cut my husband's & both boys that way. ok, one haircut suits them all, so that's good. The clippers come with guides so you can't really screw up. Daddy goes first & then holds each boy.

I sing, do the alphabet, count to 20, whatever to take away the scary. Or, my hubby holds them down, I cut the hair (through massive tantrum) & when it's done, lots of cuddles & praise for "trying hard".

It's taken 5.75 years for my oldest to sit without screaming. (Incidently, he's 5.75 years old.) But his last haircut went well.

Oh yeah - we never call it a haircut. Only call it a "trim". For some reason, a trim is not so scary?

Caeseria said...

I have the opposite situation from every other sensory-processing-problem mother, so far as I can tell - my son couldn't care less if I cut his nails, for example. He holds still enough I can do it with nail scissors. So though I haven't tried a haircut yet, I'm thinking it shouldn't be a big deal - except, the one part of bathing he still hates is having his hair washed. So I may be in for a fight after all.
Our kids are so incredibly different!
Personally, I would try it while he's watching a video or something, just sneak in with a pair of scissors every few minutes for one snip. Lots and lots of distraction, the same way our OT gets him doing things he doesn't want to. I'm going to do his hair myself whenever I do get around to it, just to avoid the potential pitfalls of going somewhere - just pop in Veggie Tails and be sneaky.

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