Saturday, June 18, 2011

Autism and Haircuts: Conor Has A Great Haircut Treat Adventure

Above: Conor after this morning's haircut.

Below: Conor before this morning's haircut.

Conor has full blown Autistic Disorder with profound developmental delays. Haircuts were a real challenge at one time.  But things have improved dramatically with time, effort, planning and education.Today was a great haircut day for Conor with very little difficulty and he is much more comfortable with much of his thick hair laying in piles around the barber chair.  

I thought I would share some of our approach for those who are looking for ideas; things that have helped us with Conor:

1. Pick a spot which has less traffic and noise for your child's haircut.
2. Pick a time when there will be less traffic. For us it is 9 am Saturday morning.
3. Find someone to cut your child's hair who has patience, understanding, empathy and willingness to take her/his time, using scissors as much as possible, and, as much as possible, without electric buzzing clippers.
4. Stick with the same person, place and time for the haircuts as much as possible.
5. Tell your child beforehand that they will be going for a haircut in a day or two, so that it is not a surprise for them.
6. Have mom  or dad close by ready to hold their hand and talk to them.
7. Distract them if necessary with verbal games eg having them count by 10's, 5's, 2's etc, or sing songs.
8. Bribe them. Tell them they are going on a haircut treat adventure with the treat following the haircut.
9. Tell them what a great job they are doing, what a great boy/girl they are as they are getting their hair cut.

These are some of the things that have worked for us.  Each time Conor gets a haircut with minimal fuss it is in itself a form of reward that should make it easier the next time.  Maybe some autistic children don't need special efforts by their parents and power to them and their families. If you do you may want to consider these suggestions ... if you haven't already.

(Yes, I bribed Conor today too, with a trip to McDonald's for some hash browns, which Dad also enjoys)


Claire said...

Excellent post. You know, the iPad has become a tool for us in taking Sophie out. She can use it at anytime she starts to feel overwhelmed with outside stimuli. It's something she's familiar with, and she focuses on it, instead of on everything else. I wonder if Conor would be an iPad sort of guy?

Mommie that Gets It said...

My son does not like to have his hair brushed, let alone cut. We found a great place called "Melonhead" that caters to children. They are aware of Austin's diagnosis and he sits for them and gets a great haircut. They have them in different cities in Ontario. Highly recommended!

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice for the Parents with Children newly diagnosed. I have to do the same method with my grandson Keegan.

Anonymous said...

What a cutie! (I guess you will have to teach him to shave soon?)

Shannon said...

Your wife knows how to rock the scissors! If I tried that with my children I'd never finish it because of all the wiggling.

We do some of the same things you do (letting them know about their haircuts ahead of time, treats, etc.), but my children are so active we've had much better results taking them to a salon. There are two stylists at the salon we use that have experience working with autistic children and they really are a blessing. Not only do they do a great job, they're quick, they're patient and they make conversation with my children while they cut their hair. Trent & Zoe actually look forward to it and sit still (YAY!!).

If I had to do it myself, my children would end up looking like I had taken to them to Lowe's and went at them with a weedwhacker.

Conor's hair looks great! He looks so handsome with his hair cut short (but he'd also probably look great with it shoulder-length, Ozzy Osbourne style).