How to Help a Child With Sensory Issues Get a Haircut

If your child has sensory issues, it can be very challenging to do anything from lying on a sleeping bag to taking a bath to going to the movies. Even getting a haircut for your child can be a challenge. Luckily, there are ways to make the experience a bit easier. If you have a child with sensory issues due to autism, sensory processing disorder or any other issue, consider these ideas.

1. Look for a very patient hairdresser

When you have a child who is easily upset and bothered by sensory issues, you need a hairdresser who is willing to devote a lot of time to the cut. You need someone who is patient with people in general, and you need someone who doesn't mind that the cut takes longer than average. Consider offering the hairdresser an extra tip to take a bit more time with the cut.

2. Have hair wet for the cut

Even if you don't have sensory issues, stray hair on your neck can be super agitating—it is even more annoying for a kid with sensory sensitivities. If your child's hair is wet, it will reduce the number of stray flyaways and hopefully make the process more comfortable.

If you don't think your child will be comfortable with the position of the salon's hair washing sink or the sound of their handheld hose, wash his or her hair at home before you go to the hairdressers.

3. Let your child make some choices

It can feel very overwhelming if your child doesn't know what to expect and has no choice over the matter. To alleviate these feelings, let you child make some choices. For example, let your child choose if he or she wants the hairdresser to remove the hair from his or her neck with a little brush or with a blow dryer.

4. Remember other senses besides touch

When you are trying to make a haircut easier for your child, it's easy to just focus on the touch aspect of the experience. However, a kid with sensory issues experiences a lot more than touch during a haircut.

If possible, try to help your child handle the bright lights of the salon by letting him or her wear sunglasses. If you think he or she will be bothered by the noise of the clippers or the sound of other patrons, give him or her ear plugs.

5. Organise a private cut

If possible, ask the hairdresser if your child can have a private cut. By scheduling the hair cut just before or after the shop opens, you can have greater control over the sensory environment your child experiences. For example, you can turn down the lights a bit and turn off the background music.

6. Don't force the issue

If your child is yelling and screaming at the very idea of a haircut, make your best judgement call about whether or not your child needs a haircut. If your child is extremely upset and very resistant, it won't really hurt him or her to have longer hair for a couple of years until a haircut become less of a struggle.