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These tips have all been sent in by other parents, carers and professionals in the learning disability community. We hope they will give you plenty of ideas to try, but please remember Netbuddy is not responsible for the information provided or any of the activities suggested.
Hair colour samplesTry giving the hair-colour samples as finger fidgets during a hair cut. Great distraction.
Try a variety of brushes
If someone doesn't like having their hair brushed, it could just be the brush you're using. Try a variety of different brushes to find one they like the feel of.
Make it easier for someone with special needs to wash their hair by getting shampoo in a pump. Avoids opening a slippery wet cap, figuring out how much shampoo you need and using both hands at the same time.
I play hairdressers at home with my autistic nephew so when he does get his hair cut it is more like a game. I also put talc on his neck so the hair blows off easily and isn't itchy.
To prepare my son for needing to shave, we are using neck clippers for a few seconds each hair cut to see if he can tolerate the noise and vibration at the back of his neck. Aiming to crack this before moving anywhere near his mouth!
If someone is sensitive to strong smells, that could be one of the reasons they don't like having their hair washed and/or cut. Try using unscented shampoo instead.
Cut = pain
The word cut used to frighten my daughter as she associated it with pain, cutting her finger etc. We started using different words like 'tidy up your hair' and found she was more accepting of the hairdresser!
Introduce shaving as a game - Dads can involve sons when shaving themselves. Make it fun and talk about how good it feels afterwards.
I make sure there is no one else around when I cut Aaron's hair as this makes him very anxious. I also cover his neck in a creme or moisturiser as this cuts down the itching on his neck
To overcome the fear of having a haircut, it can help to show another person having their haircut. Videos can be useful to give people an idea of what to expect. Here is a video I have found useful for using with autistic children: www.youtube.com
For someone who hates having a haircut, try a basic desensitisation program. You can download some pictures from the internet and present them as an activity. These might initially involve a shampoo, a pair of scissors, then having your hair washed, etc.
My son has very fine hair which tangles easily. I recommend the Daniel Galvin Junior (DGJ) organic shampoo called wild n crazy hair juice de tangler (green bottle). This, along with cutting hair short and using the detangle brush has made washing and combing so much easier.
Tangle teezeHairbrushing was always really painful for Violet, until someone suggested a 'tangle teeze' brush which goes through her hair much more smoothly. We also agree on an amount of times I can pass the brush through her hair before we start.
My 8 year old son with ASD would not let the barber cut his hair and would throw a full blown tantrum. Until we tried putting a portable dvd player in front of him, he got so distracted that voila-no more tantrums. Not even one tear!
Hairwashing without tears
Make hair-washing easier by smearing cream or shower gel (we use aqueous cream) on the shower door/screen, then they can make marks or pictures on the window while you wash their hair, without tears!
Keeping Hair Clean
My son recently had an operation and couldn't bath or shower for 10 days. I found the dry shampoo Batiste to be excellent. There are other , fancier versions such as Ojon (available in John Lewis) but Batiste did a good job. Also great to use occasionally if the person you are caring for hates having their hair washed, give them a break occasionally.
Good vibrationsUse an electric tooth brush a few years before needing to start using an electric shaver. Helps get people used to the vibrations/noise etc.
Hair's a funny story
Bag Books do a funny multi-sensory story about going to the hairdressers which might lighten the mood for haircut-phobics.
'Visiting' the hairdressers
I've found that taking my daughter to the hairdressers when she is not having her hair cut helps her see it's not always scary. I take her when I'm having a cut or her younger brother is too.
A window seat
My son is very sensitive to hair cutting, but sitting him in the shop window to watch the traffic makes him slightly more tolerant. Still a few wiggles and bolts for the door, but much better.
I take my son's ipad to the barber's and put his favourite clips on it to distract him, while the barber cuts his hair at the speed of light.
We find it really hard to brush Magdalena's hair, but she cries much less if we brush a member of the family's hair at the same time as her hair is being brushed.
Do it at home
Some people cope with hair cuts much better if it's done at home. Ask around for recommendations, ask your local barber/hairdresser, or try the mobile hairdressers in the 'phone book (You can always try another one next time if your first choice proves hopeless...)
Short and tangle-free
Florence hated having her hair combed because she got lots of tangles and it hurt. We changed her hair style to a shorter one which she helped to choose - forget your dream of ringlets for now!
For some one with sensory defensiveness, hair brushing can be an awful ordeal. For some, it feels as though every hair-root is being pulled tightly and inflaming a nerve. The sensation’s not much less if they brush their own hair. The best thing is to keep it short.
No more tangles
Suzie has very thick hair. I towel dry her hair and leave in conditioner. This makes it easier to brush with a squirt of water.
Wash it at homeJulie hates having her hair washed at the hairdressers. We just ask for a dry cut or just wet her hair with a plant spray.
Stress toysWhen we go to the hairdresser we always take along stress toys / favourite books or DVD player.
Blow the bits awayBecky is very sensitive, so when she has her hair cut, we remove all cuttings by using a hair dryer to remove it as we go. Becky likes the cold air setting.
Ear plugsCallum is sensitive to noise, we find soft flexible ear plugs cut out the noise of the hair cutting machine.
All in the timer
We use a timer so Noah can tell when the haircut starts and finishes.
See for yourself
JB is much better when he can see what is going on when we cut his hair. We bought a non breakable mirror from one of the catalogues.
I show Billy a picture of the actual Barber shop and a picture of the Barber who will be cutting his hair, we are lucky and have a fantastic accommodating barber.
Get the time right
Go to the Barber shop at the quietest times, so there is less time to queue. There is also the added bonus of less 'people noise' at these quiet times. As our barber became more of a friend and he could see how distressed Pete was, he suggested we came back once he had closed the Barber shop for the day, so it would be just us in the shop.
We took Ben into the Barber shop just for a visit (several times) to see other children having a hair cut and to see what equipment the barber uses.
Hair-free top to go
I take a fresh top for Wendy to change into as soon as her hair is cut – it lessens the 'itchy feeling'.
Try changing speed
We experimented with different speeds and pressures brushing Lizzie's hair, and quickly found out that she could tolerate slow and firm strokes so much better that light quick strokes which made her run away.
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