Getting a haircut is such a traumatic experience for a child on the spectrum but it is also as challenging for us as parents. The sound and feel of the clippers is definitely a huge factor and a big sensory input that they have to cope with. Add to that is the proximity of scissors to the face and that could very well be a trigger fro most of the children on the spectrum.
I started taking Isaac to a salon for kids when he was still trached but not on the ventilator. So this was when he was about 4 or 5 years old. He would cry and protest loudly from the time he sees the familiar place until we return to the car after the haircut is done. I continued to bring him about every 3 to 4 months and the hairstylist even suggested that maybe he needed to come more often so he could get used to her. But because we were also busy with school, therapy and appointments, we really could not do it more often. He has been attending ABA therapy now for more than 2 years. So this last time I took him to the salon I used a technique that I observed from one of his sessions. I interjected the concept of getting a haircut the day before by saying, “Hey Isaac, tomorrow we will get a haircut, okay? We will go to Costco after if you don’t cry.” Then I ask him, “Is that okay?”. He signaled yes so later that night I reminded him again that the reward we were working for was to go to Costco. Of course, when we got to the parking lot he started whining a little but we were in good shape as the decibels were still very low. He was very quiet while we were waiting inside but then the universe decided to throw us a curveball. Our regular stylist was not available because she had to tend to another client! I was nervous but tried not to show it. The new stylist was very nice and very empathetic. Isaac was quiet the whole session with the exception of a few whimpers that only I and the stylist could hear. His old stylist was so impressed and we were oh so proud of him for being able to cope with this event.
He now has two successful haircut sessions under his belt. I hope that it will get progressively better as time goes by. It took us a while to get to this point. I almost lost hope in the process but someone had to cut his hair :). I could not do it myself.
We have to be grateful for these small strides and evidence of progress. In this case, the use of certain techniques I observed from ABA helped in turning an otherwise traumatic experience around. I am grateful.