For many parents of Autistic children, getting a hair cut can be a traumatic experience for them and their child.

It is a task that needs to be done but the thought of it fills us parents with dread!  Over the years we have tried numerous strategies for our son's haircut. We have cut his hair ourselves at home (resulting in interesting styles). We've had home visits from hairdressers and also visits to the barbers.

Our son (who has ASD and sensory issues) hated having his head touched and was particularly sensitive around his ears.  It was as if the act of cutting caused him physical pain – like he had feeling in his hair!

Over the years we have persevered and whilst  still something of a tactical operation, we seem to have cracked it. We’ve found an understanding barber who we’ve been going to for a few years now. My son knows them and vice versa.

We go as a family and Dad has his hair cut at the same time in the next chair.  Mum is on standby to deal with any impending crisis.  He can even tolerate the clippers now and the promise of a treat (usually a cafe for cake!) often helps us get though the final few minutes when he’s starting to get fidgety.

If you have tips, strategies or stories which may help others, please share them on our blog or Facebook page.

10 Tips For Getting Through A Hair Cut

  1. Find an understanding hairdresser.  Whether having your child’s hair cut at home or at a barbers, talk to the hairdresser beforehand about your child, their condition and how they may react.   You may want to provide them with some information and give them some tips and suggestions on how to handle certain situations. For example: speaking calmly and using short, simple sentences).
  2. Introduce your child gradually to the hairdresser. Visit the salon and watch someone they know (a sibling, friend or Dad) having a haircut.
  3. Prepare your child for the hair cut by marking it on the calendar with a hair cut symbol so they know when it is coming.   Try to visit at a quiet time of day when you are unlikely to have to wait too long. You may want to book an appointment, explaining to the hairdresser that missing the allotted time could have consequences!
  4. Use a timer at the start of the cut so your child knows how long it is going to last.
  5. Use social stories to explain about hair cuts and to prepare for the visit to the hairdresser.
  6. Many children with autism are very sensitive to the noise of clippers.  Either ask the hairdresser to use scissors only and/or use earplugs to block out some of the noise.   You could also play your child’s favourite music to distract them and block out some of the background noise.
  7. Fidget toys may also be useful to keep your child occupied during the hair cut. A favourite toy may provide some comfort and keep them distracted.
  8. A weighted lap pad, jacket or hug vest could be used to keep them calm. This may reduce anxiety whilst in the barber’s chair.
  9. If your child is having their hair washed, ask the hairdresser not to use a strongly scented shampoo. Taking your own shampoo which will smell familiar to your child maybe be better.   You could ask the hairdresser to use the water spray to dampen the hair.  You could turn this into a fun activity for your child (get your child to spray the water on themselves for example.
  10. We always find a small reward like a lollipop at the end of the hair cut works wonders. This can also be used as an incentive for the next visit.