10 Tips to Care for an Autistic Child's Hair
When you have an autistic child in the home, haircuts and even simple hair brushing can become a problem. Meltdowns, screaming, biting, hitting and all forms of behavior that leave a parent exhausted and begging for a moment's mercy are often the result of even mentioning doing something to the hair.
So what do you do?
First, autism means you have a hypersensitive child. You might even have a child with syneasthasia. This means that the senses mix up and can something become too much for them. Furthermore, many children might not like a deviation from their norms, a trait common to those with autism. Controlled environments where they feel they have control are what they often need. Autism in itself is a very interesting genetic disorder accentuated by environmental factor.
As a side note, it might be prudent to point out another fact that seems to be prevalent among autistic children. Hair toxic metal concentrations seem to be more prevalent in children diagnosed with moderate to severe ASD, a conclusion reaped from a 2012 study in Texas looking at the concentrations of arsenic, Hg, cadmium, lead, chromium, cobalt, nickel, aluminum, tin, uranium, and manganese. There is no evidence to state if this might be why autistic children are so adverse to having their hair cared for, but it is an interesting thought.
How to get the hair brushed and styled hassle-free?
Get the scalp stimulated beforehand:
It may seem paltry or silly, but it could do you a world of good. A head massage, ruffling the hair, or anything that has nothing to do with brushing or tugging at the hair for a start should be great. Slowly move them into position to do things your way.
Use soft hair accessories:
Instead of heavy clips or thin elastics that get the hair caught in there, use a scrunchie, soft-tipped clips or any other accessories that do not tug as much.
Use a blunt-tipped brush/comb:
I personally find a wide-tooth comb to be the best. It is generally recommended by beauty salons to use for detangling the hair, particularly after a bath. Stay away from brushes unless they are blunt-tipped and necessary for styling. Keep to combs for most of the time.
How to get the hair cut meltdown-free?
- Get them ready with detailed descriptions of what will happen
- Show them how their hair might look after the haircut
- Demonstrate how it might look by cutting a bit of your own hair or a doll's
- Make sure the haircut is scheduled for when your child is at his or her calmest
- Ask the barber to use a sensitive shampoo as their scalps might respond differently than expected
- Develop a routine for haircuts. Mark the first of each month (or any other day depending on how often you need it) for a trim/cut/etc.
- If there is a sensitivity to the sound of scissors or buzzers near the ear, try using ear plugs
There are many things you can do to get the hair cut without losing your own mind. Usually a proper visual and care taken while brushing, styling or cutting an autistic child's hair will help, so long as every detail is accounted for.