Haircuts can be stressful for anyone: you want to stick to your regular barber or hairdresser, you worry it won’t come out looking like your last one, and you jokingly hope your ear won’t get snipped. These worries are, in a way, not so different from the anxieties a child with special needs may experience, though theirs may be heightened. The bright lights of a barber shop or the sound of clipping so close to their ear may cause undue stress.
But haircuts are a necessary, habitual activity, and as such there are ways to alleviate stress. Below find tips on how to best prepare your child for their appointment, and also some autism-friendly businesses to go to!
1 Prepare, prepare, prepare
Don’t leave your child’s haircut to the last minute. Call a solid two weeks in advance to place your appointment. This way you and your child can talk about the haircut in the days leading up to it so they feel most comfortable.
2 Try using Calming Clippers
A ”silent haircutting solution for individuals with sensory sensitivity,” Calming Clippers were designed for children with autism. There is no buzzer and the benefit of these clippers is that you can use them from home in an environment your child is most comfortable in at a time that works for you.
3 Stick to a routine
If your child needs monthly haircuts, incorporate this into their regiment. Plan a haircut every fourth Wednesday, for example, and be sure to give them a small reward afterward so they know there is a repetitive and anticipated process of experience and satisfaction.
4 Avoid peak hours
As AutismSpeaks says, call your salon or barbershop and ask when it is busiest. Be sure to avoid those times so your child is in a less bustling and more intimate environment. You can also see about dimming the lights or playing soft music during off-hours if that will help your child while the shop isn’t busy.
5 Introduce scissors before the appointment
Your child may not be used to seeing scissors or razors used for haircuts, so try showing them some at home so they have a sense of how they will be used. Let them carefully hold them and then explain what the stylist will do, perhaps even trimming off a lock as a test.
6 Visit the salon beforehand
Need be based off of your child’s comfort levels, take a drive by the salon so they can experience the place they will soon be visiting. You can bring them inside, have them meet the hair dresser, and walk around so they get a sense of the location.
7 Bring distracting toys
Your child’s reactions may vary and be different from their mood before setting foot in the salon, so come prepared with treats, toys, or music to help distract them so the barber can do their work. All the while, give them positive praise so that the worker can go as efficiently as possible.
8 Work with your child’s needs
As Autism Network shares, your child may not want to sit in a special barber chair to get their hair cut; they may want to sit on your lap or even on the floor while playing a game. Go with the flow, and get into whatever position your child feels comfortable with!
9 Visit these nearby establishments
A simple Google search shows reviews of nearby places that work with children with special needs. These include:
- Kids n Adults Hair Salon (Clark, NJ)
- Just 4 Kids Salon (Hoboken, NJ)
- Little Details Salon (Springfield Township, NJ)
- SnipIts (Rockaway, NJ)
- Rita’s Snips for Pips (Ridgewood, NJ)
- Hair Hub (Hawthorne, NJ)