Successful Hair Cutting
- Before your child’s haircut you may want to think about the following:-
- Speak with the salon manager about just coming in so that your child can be acquainted with the environment
- Schedule an appointment during a time when the salon is not as crowded so there are less distractions.
- Identify reinforcers or preferred items that your child likes. For some children it’s a favourite toy or book, but for others it may be a treat. Your child can earn the item as a result of successfully completing the steps requested. For some children this may mean all the steps necessary for getting a haircut, for others it may mean to complete a predetermined number of steps. As these steps are mastered more steps can be added until the haircut is successfully completed. It is important that your child is successful and has earned the reward at the end of the sessions. This way the experience may be remembered as positive.
- Take a digital picture of the reinforcer or preferred item to remind your child what they are earning.
- Review the steps of getting a haircut with your child (see the visual schedule)
- Practice the steps of getting a haircut with your child at home before bringing your child in for a haircut.
- Get your child’s sensory system ‘ready’ for haircutting by using ‘deep pressure’ (proprioceptive) activities before you attempt a haircut. Some deep pressure activities may include:-
- Firm ‘bear’ hugs: Squeezing your child between large cushions or pillows Rolling a gym ball or roll over them using a firm pressure. Giving your child a firm, predictable massage over their back, shoulders and arms and work up to their head. When massaging your child’s body go with the direction of the hair growth rather than against it.
- Wilbarger Therapressure Protocol (if you have been trained to do this by your child’s OT)
- When drying their hair use firm strokes rather than light touch. Firm touch is more organizing and calming than light touch. Some children can find light touch quite alarming. The same principles apply when you are drying down your child after their bath/shower/swimming – apply firm strokes with the towel over their body
- At other times, when you are sitting down with your child, e.g. watching TV, give them a head massage. This will help them get accustomed to having their head/hair touched. Start at the back and shoulders and move up to the head, using consistent and firm pressure.
- If you visit a hairdresser choose one that is understanding. Consider the use of motivating distractions that may help keep your child calm, such as their favourite music, could the salon play their favourite DVD?, iPad/iPod, etc.
- If you visit a hairdresser, drive past the salon on your way to the shops, school, etc. If you walk your child you could walk past the salon regularly so that your child becomes familiar with the area.
Using a Virtual Schedule
Children with autism often benefit from visual supports and schedules. The visual schedule here outlines the steps necessary to get a haircut. Families are welcome to copy the pictures and create a visual schedule for their child. You can copy the schedule and check off the activities as they occur. Alternatively you may like to take a series of your own photos depicting the specific salon or hairdresser you use, and create your own schedule using a similar format.
The pages can be laminated and a dry erase marker can be used to check off each activity. This way the page can be reused for each visit. Alternatively you may like to cut out the photos and laminate them, and place Velcro on the back of each picture. The photos are arranged in sequential order on a board, as each step is completed the picture can be removed.
Some children may need to be reinforced with verbal praise, a preferred item, or a treat after each step. Others may be able to complete some, many or all of the steps before verbal praise or a treat is given. Each child will need to work at their own pace to achieve the skills necessary to get a haircut.
Create a virtual schedule for your child using the checklist below: