Many children with sensory processing difficulties have trouble staying regulated when getting their hair cut. This experience can provide a lot of uncomfortable tactile and auditory input. There is also often a stranger in their personal space, and this can be scary. Here are some tips to try to make the process more less stressful for your child:
Before going for a haircut, spend some time showing your child video clips of kids getting their hair cut. This well help them understand the expectations, and be more aware of the type of sensations and noises they may encounter. Reading books and looking through pictures of the experience might also help them prepare. If you can find them, pictures of the actual salon will help your child to know what to anticipate from this new space too. Try creating a social story with real pictures of your child and the hair salon.
- Step by Step
When the time comes that your child needs a hair-cut, your child may benefit from a gradual approach to help them feel more comfortable with the experience. For the first trip, your child might only feel comfortable walking to the door of the salon. Respect your child’s boundaries and stop at this point. Remain positive and when you try again, try extending the task a little further. Perhaps your child will feel more comfortable and will agree to go inside the salon and sit in the chair in the waiting area. Perhaps the 3rd time they will agree to go inside and sit in the hairdresser’s chair. By breaking down a task and slowly moving up the steps, your child will know what to expect. It is most important that they feel safe. Progressing through the process step by step can be beneficial. If desired, you can pair each step with a reward (food or preferred item) to encourage success.
3. Sensory Preparation
In a hair salon, there might be a lot of new sounds, smells and lights that can be overwhelming. Wherever possible, speak with the hair dresser to see if they can assist in making your child as comfortable as possible. Some ideas might include:
- Schedule your appointment during a time that is less busy at the salon
- Using scissors instead of an electric razor, wherever possible.
- Use a weighted blanket, lap pad or shoulder pad to give calming deep pressure.
- Remove or dim any bright lights in the area if possible.
As always, please consult with your healthcare professional for a customized plan for your child!