Imagine this: It’s a sunny Saturday morning, and you’ve decided it’s time for your child’s much-needed haircut. You expect a bit of fidgeting and maybe a few tears, as haircuts can be challenging for most kids. But for your child with autism, it’s a whole different situation. The sensory overload from the buzz of clippers, the sensation of scissors near their head, and the unfamiliar environment can turn a routine task into a daunting adventure.
No need to feel frustrated, we’re here to help! Let us guide you through the process of making haircuts a more enjoyable experience for your child with special needs. Plus, at Blossom Children’s Center we have sensory-friendly haircuts conducted by a caring professional who truly takes the time to get to know each child and their preferences.
Understanding Sensory Sensitivities
Now that you’re settled into the scene, let’s dive deeper into the world of haircuts for children with autism. Your child might have hypersensitivities to sounds, touch, or even the anticipation of change. We have 5 quick tips that can help turn this adventure into a less challenging one AND create a positive experience for your child.
1. Preparation is Key:
Before you head to the salon, engage your child in a chat about the upcoming haircut. Maybe they can even choose the hairstyle they want! It’s a moment of connection, and it’s also the starting point for a successful haircut experience.
To help prepare your child for their haircut, our top recommendation is to utilize:
Visual Aids and Social Stories: Children with autism often respond well to visual cues. Use pictures or create a visual schedule that illustrates the steps of a haircut. You can find pictures online or in books, or even take photos of the salon and hairstylist to make it more relatable. These visuals help your child understand what to expect, reducing the anxiety associated with the unknown.
And here’s a pro tip: schedule the appointment when your child is typically at their calmest, which can make a world of difference.
2. Sensory-Friendly Environment:
Choosing the right place for the haircut is vital. Seek out a salon that offers sensory-friendly haircuts.
Here’s a closer look at how to make the environment sensory-friendly:
Soft Lighting: Many children with autism are sensitive to bright or harsh lighting. Choose a salon or hairstylist’s studio that offers soft, diffused lighting. Natural light or warm, gentle lighting can create a soothing atmosphere that minimizes visual sensory triggers.
Quiet Tools: Traditional clippers and hairdryers can be incredibly loud, which can be distressing for children with sensory sensitivities. Seek out a salon that uses quieter, low-decibel equipment. Some places even offer silent or vibration-based clippers, which are less likely to startle your child.
Comfortable Seating:Ensure your child has a comfortable, supportive chair to sit in during the haircut. Some salons offer special chairs designed with extra cushioning to enhance comfort. Additionally, consider using a cushion or pillow for added support.
Sensory-Friendly Products: Some hairstylists use sensory-friendly products, such as hypoallergenic shampoos or conditioners with mild scents, to minimize sensory triggers like strong smells or skin irritation.
Ear Protection: If your child is particularly sensitive to noise, consider providing noise-canceling headphones or earplugs. These can significantly reduce the impact of the clippers or hairdryer sounds.
Calming Tools: Some sensory-friendly salons offer calming tools, like weighted blankets or lap pads, to help children feel grounded and secure during the haircut.
Visual Distractions: Distraction is a powerful tool to redirect your child’s attention away from the haircut process. Some salons have TVs or screens where your child can watch a favorite show or movie while getting their haircut. Alternatively, you can bring a tablet with headphones to entertain them.
Personal Space: Ensure your child has enough personal space during the haircut. This helps them feel safe and minimizes the feeling of being crowded, which can be a common sensory trigger.
Flexibility and Patience: A sensory-friendly environment also means that the hairstylist should be flexible and patient. They should understand that breaks may be needed, and they should be willing to adapt to your child’s unique needs.
3. Bring Comfort Items:
Think of it as a little adventure bag. Let your child bring along their favorite toy, their trusty blanket, or a soothing fidget toy to provide comfort and familiarity during the haircut.
Here’s how to make the most of comfort items during a haircut:
Favorite Toys: Allow your child to bring their most cherished toys or stuffed animals to the haircut appointment. These familiar items can provide a source of comfort and distraction. Holding onto a beloved toy can help your child feel secure and less anxious.
Blankets or Comfort Objects: If your child has a favorite blanket or comfort object, bring it along. Having something soft and reassuring to hold or wrap themselves in can create a calming sensory experience.
Fidget Toys: Fidget toys are designed to keep hands busy and can help your child manage sensory input. Small, quiet fidget toys like stress balls or sensory putty can be discreetly used during the haircut to ease anxiety and restlessness.
Desensitization is a gradual process that helps your child become more accustomed to the sensory aspects of a haircut. By introducing them to the sensations associated with a haircut in a controlled and familiar environment, you can reduce anxiety and make the actual haircut experience less overwhelming.
Here are two ways you can support desensitization at home with your child:
Toy Clippers or Scissors Play
Start by introducing toy clippers or plastic safety scissors to your child’s playtime. Let them handle these safe, non-threatening tools. Show them how the clippers vibrate or how the scissors open and close without cutting.
Incorporate pretend play into your child’s daily routine. Use the toy clippers or scissors to mimic the motions of a haircut. Pretend to cut the hair of their favorite stuffed animal or doll. Encourage your child to participate in this imaginative play by “cutting” the hair themselves.
A hairstylist who knows the drill is essential. Communicate with them before the appointment. Share your child’s unique needs and sensitivities. This way, they can tailor the experience accordingly and ensure your child feels safe and understood.
Blossom Children’s Center-Supporting Children with Sensory-Friendly Haircuts
Now, let’s talk about Blossom Children’s Center, where the magic happens. At Blossom, we have the tools to create a safe space for your child during their haircut.
Our salon is like a calm oasis amid a bustling city. We’ve designed it with sensory sensitivities in mind, ensuring your child feels comfortable and secure.
Patient and Understanding Stylist:
Our stylist isn’t just a pro with scissors; they’re pros with patience and empathy too. They’ve got experience working with children on the autism spectrum, so they know how to create a supportive environment.
Tailored Haircut Experience:
We don’t believe in ‘one size fits all.’ Our professional hair stylist takes the time to get to know your child and their unique needs. Whether that means using quieter tools or adjusting the environment, we tailor the experience to make it as comfortable as possible.
We’re all about making this adventure enjoyable. We use positive reinforcement techniques, like praise and rewards, to keep the experience positive and stress-free.
Getting a haircut for your child with autism doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. With the right preparation, sensory-friendly environment, and the support of caring professionals like those at Blossom Children’s Center, you can transform it into a manageable and even enjoyable experience. Prioritize your child’s comfort and well-being during their next haircut and remember that there are places like Blossom Children’s Center ready to make it a positive adventure for your family.
To learn more about our ABA services , please visit our website, or give us a call today for more information. We can’t wait to hear from you!