I’ve gotten numerous requests for a social story about getting a haircut for children with autism and other special needs. You can access the story here. Over the years, I’ve seen so many parents struggle with haircuts for their autistic children. For many children with sensory differences, haircuts can be very difficult and anxiety-producing. There are many reasons why, including:
- haircuts are not part of a daily routine, but rather a change in routine
- hair salons have unpredictable sounds (people talking, music, hairdryer)
- getting a haircut involves touch and for those with tactile defensiveness
- due to all of this, anxiety can be heightened
Tantrums, meltdowns, and refusals are pretty common due to all of these things. Autistic children can be completely overwhelmed by the experience. If this sounds like your child, try preparing them with a social story. In addition to a social story, try these:
- seek out recommendations for hair stylists who are patient and accommodating for neurodivergent children
- visit the salon without actually getting a haircut
- prior to the visit, give the hairstylist a favorite little toy or treat that they can give to your child when you meet for the first time
- allow your child to watch a favorite show on a tablet while getting a haircut & use ear bud if they are able to tolerate them
- try video modeling and show your child what is going to happen ahead of time
- practice at home with plastic pretend scissors (like you use with Play-Doh). Count the snips by saying “1, 2, 3, 4, 5…all done”. Then, give a short break followed by 5 more snips. Repeat. This will create a predictable routine.
This Calming Clipper has great reviews from parents. It was created for children with sensory sensitivities. Check it out here.
If you use visual supports in your classroom or home, you are going to want to sign up for this free Visual Supports Starter Set ASAP! Click here to have one sent to your inbox. Also, be sure to read more about visual supports and how they can help autistic children here.