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How To Cut Hair Of Autistic Child

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Being the parent of an autistic kid can pose many challenges. A lot of them are somewhat known but few people give much thought to how hard even simple everyday activities can be for an autistic person.

Take going to the barber, for example. A lot of barbers recognize what a nightmare getting a haircut is for an autist.

Autistic children often find having their hair cut extremely distressing because of sensory challenges associated with the condition. This means that when are having their hair cut, the feeling of hands running through the hair landing on the face or body and the noise of scissors can cause distress. says Meleri Thomas of the National Autistic Society in the UK.

Why is that so? According to the UK National Health Service, there are several main types of behavior autistic kids display in stressful situations :

  • reacting unusually negatively when asked to do something by someone else
  • not being aware of other peoples personal space, or being unusually intolerant of people entering their own space
  • preferring to have a familiar routine and getting very upset if there are changes to this routine

Fortunately, some barbers have started to not only recognize the issue but act on it as well.

One such barber is Donncha OConnell who shares an interesting story.

We do have a few kids with special needs coming in. You take your time. find that if youre relaxed around them then they generally dont have an issue.

Learn More About Autism And Haircuts

In response to the growing need, an increasing number of barbers and hairstylists are willing to do whatever it takes to cut the hair of a child with autism. For example, Autism Barbers Assemble is a UK-based organization that has created pop-up events and organized fundraisers.

Locally, the Ogle School community knows that the Autism Society of Texas regularly works within the public to educate people on how to better serve individuals on the autism spectrum. This includes everything from first responders to hair salons.

For tips specific to those in the hair industry, the National Autistic Society provides a set of solutions on how to help autistic individuals become comfortable with getting their hair cut.

Find out how Ogle School is helping cosmetology and esthetics students launch successful careers in the beauty industry.

About the Author

Tips For Sensory Friendly Haircuts

Haircuts can be difficult for children. There are many new sounds, sensations, feelings, and smells that might make children feel uneasy. Children might feel uncomfortable with all the unknown objects like hair products, scissors, hair dryers, etc. or they may not like the feeling of neck towels, smocks, or itchy hair falling on their body. The noises of clipping, snipping, and buzzing being so far from the ground in the chair and the strong smells can also be overwhelming for a little one.

Unfortunately haircuts are not something that will go away with time. Here are some ideas to make haircuts more comfortable.

Plan a VisitBring your child along on a siblings haircut or take your child to the barber shop or salon a couple days before their haircut. Call ahead and make sure this is okay with staff. Ask if they can meet your child and have a walk-through of all the equipment. If possible, arrange for your child to watch a few moments of someone elses haircut during their visit. This helps them understand the scary noises and feelings they experience during their own haircut.

Touch the ToolsBefore your child gets a haircut, ask if their hairdresser can show you and your child the equipment that will be used during the haircut. Ask to see and smell any shampoo or hairsprays as well. When children can see what tools and products that are going to be used, they might be better prepared for their haircut.

Check out sensory milestones and more here!

Recommended Reading: Life Expectancy Of Autism Spectrum Disorder

How Can I Help My Child With Autism

You can also practice at home with combing, brushing and pretending to cut with child scissors. You might use your own hair or a doll to show what is done. As autism awareness increases, more people have some understanding of our kids. Take the time to find someone who has worked with kids with autism.

Why Are Haircuts Challenging For The Autistic

10 Tips to Care for an Autistic Child

Meleri Thomas, from National Autistic Society Cymru, explains that haircuts present unique sensory issues, saying, The feeling of hands running through the hair, or hair landing on the face or body and the noise of the scissors can cause distress. Additional triggers could include the feeling of wet hair, an electric razors vibration, or other noises in a salon.

In 2018, about one in 59 children are diagnosed with autism, presenting a significant challenge for many parents who need to have their childs hair cut.

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How Long Does It Take For An Autistic Child To Cut Their Hair

A regular haircut usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes while remaining still in a chair something that autistic children have an exceptionally difficult time doing. For hairdressers, theres also an inherent risk. After all, cutting hair requires the use of scissors and a sudden jerk can injure the child.

Going To The Hairdressers With My Autistic Son

I think it is very common for children to struggle with their first few haircuts and we just assumed it would get better. For us it got worse each visit. My son would become very distressed and the only way to actually get his haircut was for me to sit on the stool with him on my lap being held down. I hate to say that effectively I have had to restrain my son to get his haircut and I was very upset at the time.

Thankfully since I have found some very helpful tips. I am sharing them with you now in the hope they will help you too.

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Autism: The Children Who Find Haircuts Painful

Sitting in a hairdresser’s chair may sound simple, but for a child with autism having a haircut can be painful. One barber has developed a unique technique where he will cut a child’s hair during long periods while sitting on the floor, on window sills or even in the car.

This weekend, as part of an autism awareness event, he and 11 other barbers will cut the hair of 60 children with autism.

Four-year-old Mason has autism and is non-verbal. He always found having his haircut traumatic.

His parents were at their wit’s end after trying to take him to the hairdressers.

Eventually they read on Facebook about a barber who had successfully cut the hair of another child with autism.

It took four months of hour-long fortnightly visits to James Williams’ barber shop in Briton Ferry, Neath Port Talbot, before Mason let him cut the hair around his ears.

“I had to join him lying on my stomach,” said Mr Williams. “As a barber it is unnatural to have that experience lying on the floor to cut hair as you are always supposed to stand by your chair doing it. The day that happened we were laughing on the floor doing it.

“Mason was just oblivious to everything, he was watching BBC News 15 seconds on repeat. But that was his day, another day it would have been different. He might not have let me near him on his next visit.”

He posted pictures of him cutting Mason’s hair in his shop on Facebook and it went viral, with actors Ashton Kutcher and Michael Sheen tweeting about it.

What Should Be Done For Preparation

Tips for Giving an Autistic Child a Haircut

As we all know, every child is different and besides that each child on the spectrum is unique. Caregivers try to learn what the child is sensitive to. They can keep a journal of their observations and findings, and also they can take a picture after the haircut that the child likes. So that they can show the childs desire to the hairdresser when caregivers need it in the future.

Setting a time table is very important. Caregivers should consider what time of day the child with autism tends to be least overwhelmed and most relaxed. It would be a good idea to try haircutting at multiple times in order to help the caregivers which time is easiest. On the other hand, caregivers should avoid trying to give the child a haircut immediately after school, any activities or during unfortunate times when the child is under bad circumstances or tired.

Children with autism tend to have routines and love routines. If the child needs routine, it is best to set up when haircuts will be happening. Because this haircutting process can be traumatic or cause anxiety for some of them. So, it is best to put haircuts on the calendar at regular intervals such as every month, every other month or whenever caregivers decide. Thus, the child knows how long he/she should wait in between trims.

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S To Peaceful Hair Brushing

September 20, 2014 By

Many children with Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism experience hair brushing as pure pain and torture. There are several things as a pediatric occupational therapist I have found to work very well with my clients:

1) The best time to work on hair is after a lot of physical activity ideally later in the day. Children tend to be more sensitive in the morning. The physical activity helps to normalize sensation. Even just having your child jump up and down 10 times or a quick game of tug a war with a towel can help. Massaging the scalp may help as well.

2) Use a no tangle brush such as the Knot Genie or Tanglefix and detangle spray with mild or no fragrance.

3) Have your child practice on you . Help your child to learn how to work out tangles from the bottom up and to hold the hair near the scalp so that the hair is not pulling and causing pain. Make sure with every stroke the brush is pulled completely off of your head . You will be able to give your child feedback this way and they do not have to feel the pain while they are learning the coordination of brushing and getting out tangles.

4) Have your child practice the same technique on themselves in front of a mirror.

5) Gently help your child finish up and if she has long hair, braid the hair so it will not tangle during sleep.

Tips For Giving Haircuts To Children With Autism

For some people, getting a haircut is a therapeutic experience from getting your tresses washed and your scalp massaged, to hearing the snipping of scissors and finally finishing with a new, refreshed look. However, this same experience can be a nightmare for children with special needs.

According to a study from the University of London, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are naturally more sensitive to their surroundings, which means that haircuts can be too much of a sensory overload for them to handle. Furthermore, Maryville University psychologists argue that mental health and learning development are closely linked. This implies that the emotional events that children go through can impact how they progress in life, even more so children with special needs.

To help in this particular situation, here are some tips to keep in mind the next time your kids are due for a haircut.

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Find A Salon That Has Experience With Cutting The Hair Of A Child With Autism

You can contact your local autism support community to get references for salons that are experienced with cutting the hair of children with autism. Salon managers that are familiar with autism are the only ones you will want to use for when you take your child for a haircut. They will know how to handle difficult situations that crop up during a session.

S To Take When You Prepare To Take A Child On The Autism Spectrum For A Haircut

Amazing barber helps kids with autism get haircuts ...

Whenever you are preparing a child on the autism spectrum regardless of how impacted he or she is, it is a process and it can be difficult. That is because you have to prepare the child through visuals such as using social stories while worrying about how the child will react due to changes in the routine and sensory issues. Examples are taking the child to the dentist or to the doctor, and it also applies when you are taking the autistic child for a haircut.

Whether or not the child is profoundly affected by autism or mildly affected, it can become an ordeal when they are getting their haircut. It usually is due to the result of the child experiencing sensory overload while getting the haircut.

The lights at the salon are bright, and the way the childs head is handled during the cutting session can be sensory triggers. However, there are solutions to these problems when it comes to cutting an autistic childs hair. Listed below are 7 steps on how to prepare a child with autism for a haircut.


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Tips To Improve Hair Cuts For Children With Autism

ByGarrett Butch | Submitted On December 14, 2008

For children with autism, getting a hair cut can be a difficult experience. For their parents the experience is often painful and full of stress, tears and frustration. When my son was first diagnosed with autism my wife and I struggled taking him to get hair cuts. We would often wait weeks past the time when his hair would look ragged and long, just to avoid the barber. After learning some small tips and developing a plan, we now are able to get his hair cut without issue. This process takes time and patience, but is worth the effort. As a father of a child with autism I have been there and understand how difficult it can be to take a child to get their hair cut. I have been slapped, scratched and my son has had a number of meltdowns that have left me on the verge of tears.

Garrett Butch is the father of a 6 year old with autism and the founder of Maximum Potential Group.

Maximum Potential has developed courses created by two PhD BCBA’s that train parents and school systems how to work with children with autism. To learn more about ABA and how to learn how to work with autistic children at home visit our web site.

Hair Cutting And Nail Clipping For Children With Autism

December 3, 2012 by kimkaplan

Heres a common nightmare for parents trying to get your autistic childs hair cut or her nails trimmed. Have you had that experience? Its not very fun for our kids.

First, Ill describe what I know about these two issues. My husband and I learned a long time ago that there was a possibility that our autistic child would have a negative reaction when it came to cutting his hair and clipping his nails.


We were told that people with autism often feel hair cutting and nail clipping much differently than typical people. They feel uncomfortable, they hear the noise of the clippers, and they can even experience pain.

Even though I cannot accurately know what my child went through while his hair was being cut or his nails were being clipped, but he was almost always uncomfortable in some way.

He is better with these two issues now that hes older, yet neither of them are his favorite things to do. I have asked him a few times if he feels pain during those activities, but hes never really answered my question.

What did we do?

Hair cutting: Our child was bald for the first year of his life. When his hair did finally start to grow, we didnt cut it for a long time because we were so happy to see hair on his head. We really let it grow out and he had long, blonde locks.

I cut his hair until he was around four. It was at this time that my poor cutting skills began to bother me. I knew it was time to try getting it cut at a salon.

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Promise Them A Reward

Many behavioral therapists like to use a technique called Applied Behavioral Therapy, which uses a rewards or reinforcements system as a tool for building skills and behaviors in children with autism. Haircuts are no different. If you want your child to be more open to the idea of getting their hair done, offer them something fun as an incentive. Depending on what your child likes, it can be ice cream, a new toy, or a simple hug. The point is to give them something to look forward to, to ease the stress.

Haircuts and other everyday events can be difficult for our loved ones with ASD, but its not impossible. With a little preparation and patience, you and your child can get through it. The most important part is to let them know that youre there to hold their hand every step of the way.

Exclusively written for

Find A Good Hairdresser

Barbers train to cut hair of kids with autism

Our hairdresser is amazing, we go to a specialist childrens hairdresser in Bristol called EK Hair. It is such a great place for children to get their haircut, while you are waiting kids can play with a brilliant sensory board. They also have a great selection of childrens DVDs to choose from that the kids can watch while getting their hair done.

The children get to sit in an aeroplane or car to get their haircut! Once the haircut is over they get a biscuit.

Whilst all of this helps to make the experience a great one the key ingredient is the actual hairdresser.

Cutting small childrens hair is such a skill. To cut hair well, quickly whilst dodging little hands trying to bat you away is tough to do. I know I couldnt do it. You want someone who is patient, skilled, friendly and good with children.

Finding a hairdresser who understands autism is gold. If you know what the key issues are for your child make sure your hairdresser knows. A good hairdresser will make necessary adjustments without any fuss. I would also recommend asking for longer appointments to give your child time to adjust.

I know many parents decide the right option for them is to do it themselves, having a familiar person can be very important for some. Ask friends for recommendations- ours is Chloe at EK Hair in Bristol, she is great at autism friendly haircuts.

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