Mr 4 has always hated haircuts. He had his first haircut at about 18 months and seems to have become worse over time.
Haircuts... shudder shudder. Some children are quite happy to have a haircut, others are not! I have one of each. Mr 4 has always been sensitive to being touched. He is extremely ticklish, hated wearing hats, goggles, washing his hair... He has some symptoms oftactile defensiveness.
It would not be uncommon to see and hear the following during one of Mr 4's hair cuts... screaming on entering the hairdressers, refusing to sit in the chair, kicking and screaming, sitting on my lap with arms/legs/held by myself and another person, shaking head from side to side... yes quite exhausting! Positive reinforcement, bribes, television, ipad time, edible rewards all fell on deaf ears and did not change his behaviour. I even tried cutting his hair myself ... which looked really bad!
As an OT, I should have realised a lot earlier that Mr 4's difficulties with haircuts were sensory. It was touch rather than noise which was distressing. For children with tactile defensiveness, light touch can be "painful". We are constantly experiencing light touch from our hair, however we have integrated that sensation so that we don't notice our own hair most of the time. When someone mentions "lice" then our senses are heightened and we then can't stop thinking and touching our hair. For children with sensitivity to touch... hair cuts, hair washing or brushing can heighten their awareness of their hair and activate "pain receptors".
I have used a variety of approaches to address Mr 4's difficulty with haircuts.
(1) Use the same hairdresser - This helps to build familiarity and expectations of people and place. The same room, the same chair, the same mirrors, the same hairdresser (if possible).
(2) Books - We borrowed as many books from the library as we could about hair and hairdressers. The funnier the better.
(3) Social story - A hand drawn story about a boy who needs a haircut because his hair is too long. It has simple sentences "walking" Mr 4 through the steps involved in getting a hair cut. We also used the Model Me social story app.
(4) Tangible reward - One of the things that motivates Mr 4 is drinking juice (lolly pops handed out by the hairdresser are scoffed).
(5) Deep Pressure prior to hair cuts and deep breathing. Deep pressure (including massaging Mr 4's head) and deep breathing help Mr 4 to calm his body and reduce anxiety.
Some of you may be thinking... some kids are just like that, they hate hair cuts and then they outgrow it. You are right, but what is really happening is that they are becoming more tolerant to the sensations they are exposed too. They are modulating their bodies to cope with sensory stimulation or without the jargon - they are can handle something that was once stressful because their bodies and central nervous system have adapted. Children with sensory processing disorder may need help to figure out ways to "modulate" or prepare their bodies for stress.
If you think that your child may have difficulties with coping with sensations they experience, contact a paediatric occupational therapist for an assessment. An occupational therapist will be able to guide you and your child to plan for stressful situations and address their sensory needs.
I'm pleased to say Mr 4 is like a different child when he gets a hair cut now. He doesn't look forward to them but he doesn't show any of the behaviours I mentioned previously.
Do your kids tolerate hair cuts or do they find them distressing?
How have you helped your child who hates hair cuts?
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Hi, I'm Cindy and I am an Occupational Therapist. I enjoy working creatively with children to see them reach their potential. Read more about me here.
Disclaimer: The information on this site is general in nature and should be used for educational and entertainment purposes. The activities are safe for most children, however, you should consult an Occupational Therapist or health professional to address specific movement, sensory or other medical conditions. This blog does not replace formal therapeutic professional advice given by a health professional or medical practitioner. Reviews and endorsements of products will only be made based on my expertise and personal opinion; and deemed worthy of such endorsement. The opinions shared in sponsored content will always be my own and not that of the advertising company or brand. Content, advertising space or posts will be clearly identified if paid, affiliated or sponsored. Affiliate links may be found throughout this website in advertising. This means that if you follow through with a purchase from these links, Your Kids OT will receive a percentage of the sale. Your Kids OT undertakes to meet the requirements of the "Social Media Policy" as published by Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Further information about this policy can be found here.
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