Can you recall your last visit to the barber shop with your child of special needs? I can. It was wonderful! It was heavenly compared to the previous ones where the entire place including all its customers and employees would give me ‘glances’; some sympathetic but mostly of annoyance. So, what has changed? A lot. Instead of feeling horrible and whining about my every visit to the stylist, I thought of doing something about it. After all, these visits are not going to get over soon and I can’t wait for them to be pleasant on their own.
I tried putting a little common sense into it and find out the real reason for my daughter to get so hysterical by the mere mention of it. There were many!
Fear of Unknown
Our kids don’t know that guy with scary shiny scissors and the poor souls are right. Just because we think a hair-cut is important and the stylist is a normal human being doesn’t mean they would think so too. They might think of him as ‘a monster with a scissor wanting to cut their ear’.
Our children love routine. They are more comfortable in situations they know about or people they have already met. So, unpredictable situations can put a lot of pressure on their tiny hearts and minds.
Fear of getting hurt, fear of those stares, fear of that strange looking contraption, fear of a new place and fear of that black sheet..!
These factors were the main culprits that I had to work on. So I thought of devising, designing and revising a plan that will have to be followed before her next hair-cut.
One of the major issues with hair-cut is the sensory issues that our children might have. There are several things that you can do, including exposing them to good hair brushes and gradually building up their resistance towards hair brushing, oiling, stroking, lightly combing, shampooing conditioning and hair styling. All of this need sensory building and if your child is struggling with it, do speak to an occupational therapist to get more help. Apart from sensory issues there are a few other things that you can do to help your child with the hair-cut.
2. Not using the word ‘Cut’
When I read about this in some article. It suddenly dawned on me that this word is so wrong to use. We keep telling them not to play with knife or scissors as they might hurt themselves or how we ‘cut’ vegetables and fruits with knife. And we want them to have a hair cut! Oh Lord, Why did I never think about it? The solution is to use ‘trim’ instead of cut. Try it.
l intentionally took an appointment for my own hair-cut 3 days before Aarshia’s ‘trim’ and took her along. She was free to roam around the place, smile at people, watch some T.V and look at those shiny scissors the stylist was using. I was talking to her all this while and telling her how wonderful I was feeling. You can also send them with their dad to see them getting a hair-cut first.
4. Writing a Social Story with visuals
You can create a personal book/story for your child about the ‘hair-cut’ experience. It can have a step by step guide to get a hair cut with pictures. Steps such as taking a walk to the salon, reaching there, meeting the stylist, sitting in the chair, putting a cloth around the neck, prepping the hair with water etc. Reading this to the child a few times before the hair-cut day would help him immensely.
5. Pretend play
Pretending a barber shop play with your child can also help him get comfortable with this task. You can role play the whole process by sitting in a chair, wrapping the cloth, sprinkling water and cutting hair with imaginary scissors and making a fun play out of it. On the day of the cut, if your child finds it difficult to sit for this long in one go, try giving him some fidgety toys or else speak to the stylist to give a break between the cut.
6. Set the expectations:
This might seem like a Management Mantra but start talking about the trip to the salon. Just say that you are so excited to see them in their new look and how on your way back you will grab some ice cream!
7. Try calling another kid:
If possible, try scheduling the visit with one more child. You can ask one of your friends who faces a similar situation to tag along. This might seem too long a shot but trust me, there are Mothers who would readily reschedule their visit to have an extra hand in the salon. This would help a great deal. Both of them can be made to sit in one big chair and can be engaged in some sort of competition like who can count till 20, make funny faces in the mirror or win rock paper scissors.
8. The ultimate distraction:
There is no one thing that would work for all the children but there should be one that can work for your child. For instance balloons and bubbles work best for Aarshia. You can also try something that you’ve not tried before like lollipop or stickers. You can stick them after every count of 20 on their plastic sheet and ask them to take it off. This might work as a great distraction. And you can get their favorite cartoon stickers. Just do something that they are not expecting.
9. Not facing the mirror:
This has worked for Aarshia. Somehow, she was never fascinated looking at herself wrapped in that no hands looking sheet. So we decided to make her sit not facing the mirror directly. This can be a little difficult for the stylist but I am sure they will be able to manage.
10. Put their favorite program On:
This might help more than others and one should try this. Some kids get so engrossed in watching their favorite show that they forget about the cut…oh sorry I mean the “trim”.
You may also like: Special Need Mothers: Do You Have Wings?
I understand that the article seems like a P.H.D thesis but aren’t we all Majors and Doctors in parenting already
So try above mentioned ideas and see if it makes your next trip to the stylist any better. Also there are few additional things that you can take care of…
- Try and keep the same stylist: Remember fear of strangers.
- If nothing works, try cutting that precious hair yourself at home: You can also call a friend or somebody else for help. The point is the kids are far more comfortable at home than in any salon so if nothing else works this can be done. Put on the DVD they love watching, give them a snack and you are all set to go.
- Don’t forcibly restrain or hold still: by doing this you are making things worse. Imagine yourself pinned down. You might do it today while he is a toddler but few months down the line you wouldn’t be able to do it because one, he would physically be strong and also you had turned his fear into phobia. Don’t make them sit though the “ordeal” by force. It would not work in the long run. The objective is not to get the hair cut done just this once but to convince them that a hair trim is nothing to be afraid of.
I know it’s all easier said than done and all of this might not work for you first time on but persistence is the key. Try different permutations and combinations and who knows the next visit to the salon might be like a visit in the park!!
Aarshia and Mama