Hair Cut Tips for a Child with Special Needs

Haircuts can be a challenge for some kids with special needs. Becky Halberg is here with hair cut tips that are ingenious solutions to this hairy problem.

Hair cuts can be a challenging event for kids with special needs and sensory issues. Guest blogger, Becky Halberg is here with an ingenious solution to this hairy problem.

Hair Cut Tips for a Child with Special Needs

Do you have a child, or know a child with sensory issues? Then you likely know the frustration that can come when it’s time for a hair cut. The fear associated with scissors, the buzzing of the clippers that seem to hurt or are too loud for the ears, the touching of the head and ears–all of these factors (and more) can make the seemingly simple act of getting a haircut seem like more of an act of torture.

We have struck out so many times when taking our guy to get a haircut. For a time, I would just buzz it down to almost-nothingness just to get it off his head quickly. As he got older, he disliked that option more and more. We had tried many different places where we could just drop in, without an appointment, in hopes that if we happened into the shop during a good moment, he might actually do okay with getting the cut.  He did not.

Talking Up Hair Cuts

In a little town nearby, there are a large number of barber shops. One of the shops is right beside a little ice cream place where we sometimes stop for a cool treat on a hot day. So when we would get ice cream, we’d point it out and “talk up” the idea of getting a hair cut.

One day we decided to try this barber for our son with sensory issues, after many times of talking it up. This particular barber shop is a family-run business, and so the day we ventured in, our son got Grandpa Barber when it was time for his haircut. What happened next may be one of the most interesting things I’ve seen. You know when you take a child to get their hair cut, they often get a lollipop when they are finished? Well, Grandpa barber had his own unique twist on this whole ritual.

Hair Cut Secret Weapon

Picasso climbed up in the chair and seemed squirmy. Grandpa Barber tried asking him to sit still a couple times, with little success. Right beside his barber chair is the container with all the lollipops. Grandpa Barber reached over and pulled one out. He took the wrapper off and offered it to my son, who willingly took it–WHILE he was getting his hair cut. He kept it in his mouth, sucked on it, and kept his mouth closed. This worked for a few minutes and then he started to get squirmy again.  I started to worry, thinking what a great idea that had been, and feeling sorry that my son was being antsy.

Grandpa Barber wasn’t bothered in the least, though. He grabbed a second lollipop out of the container, unwrapped it and offered it to my son. I was amazed!  My son was thrilled with the prospect of another lollipop and gladly nodded his approval. Grandpa barber gently took Lollipop #1 and threw it away, and gave Picasso Lollipop #2 which he happily kept in his mouth–keeping his mouth shut, and preventing hair from getting in his mouth.

Meanwhile, Grandpa Barber was snipping hair as fast as he could, while Picasso was on cloud nine, having had TWO lollipops now! Things were going well for a few minutes, till my guy started squirming again. Sigh. But to a seasoned barber, like Grandpa Barber, this was just another opportunity to pause, give my guy a minute to stretch, AND to give him Lollipop #3, trading it for Lollipop #2 which had served it’s purpose of 5 minutes of distraction while he’d cut some hair.

Hair Cut Amazement

Me? I was sitting in one of the chairs watching all of this, in amazement! WHO KNEW that there was a trick like this that maybe, just maybe, would keep my son IN THE SEAT long enough to get a hair cut?! With the successful consumption of Lollipop #3, the hai rcut was finished.

As if that wasn’t enough, Picasso went home with 3 lollipops, from Grandpa barber, for “being such a good boy”. Six lollipops for one successful haircut–worth every penny we paid that day!

Hair Cut Success Tips

Do you have a sensory kiddo getting a hair cut?  This trick with the lollipops would be a great thing to try.

  • Arm yourself with several lollipops or favorite hard candy of your choice.
  • Explain what you’re going to do to the person giving the hair cut. Don’t let them talk you out of it by saying, “Oh, they’ll get one at the end.” Hair cuts can be hard enough without added frustration from someone who doesn’t know your child.
  • A good rule of thumb. A new lollipop every time the child starts to get fidgety–and a different flavor than what was last in their mouth.  For our guy, this was one every 5 minutes.
  • 1 more lollipop–or 3, if you’re feeling generous like Grandpa Barber–for when the hair cut is done.

Why This Works

Kids suck on the lollipop with their mouth closed most of the time.  They try to keep the lollipop in their mouth which prevents the stickiness from getting all over the child.  The person cutting the hair can wipe away stray pieces that fall on/near the face to prevent them getting stuck on the lollipop.  It’s enough of a diversion that it seems to help with some of the anxiety and stress that usually goes along with a haircut. Hopefully this will help someone else!  Special thanks to Grandpa barber at the Ambler Barber Shop, Ambler, PA.

Your Hair Cut Tips

Please leave a comment with your tips for a successful hai rcut. And thanks, Becky, for your great idea! Visit her blog Sharing Redemption’s Stories.

photo credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net

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Haircuts can be a challenge for some kids with special needs. Becky Halberg is here with hair cut tips that are ingenious solutions to this hairy problem.

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8 Comments

  1. March 20, 2013    

    When my daughter was 2 years old, with long, beautiful blond hair, she wouldn’t sit still for a second for a haircut because of the sensory issues related to ASD. We found a wonderful women who was a professional hairdresser, to come to our home. In her own surroundings, Samantha could sit on a stool and watch her favorite video while getting her hair cut. Eventually, we transitioned to the beauty salon but have recently had to say goodbye to our angel of a hairdresser because she was moving out of state. At 15, Samantha could now go to a new salon, one picked out especially with an understanding hairdresser who was willing to give us a late appointment so the place was not packed. I will forever be grateful for the hairdresser that became a friend for 12 years. She is one of the many people who made a big difference because of her patience and kindness.

  2. March 20, 2013    

    When my daughter was 2 years old, with long, beautiful blond hair, she wouldn’t sit still for a second for a haircut because of the sensory issues related to ASD. We found a wonderful women who was a professional hairdresser, to come to our home. In her own surroundings, Samantha could sit on a stool and watch her favorite video while getting her hair cut. Eventually, we transitioned to the beauty salon but have recently had to say goodbye to our angel of a hairdresser because she was moving out of state. At 15, Samantha could now go to a new salon, one picked out especially with an understanding hairdresser who was willing to give us a late appointment so the place was not packed. I will forever be grateful for the hairdresser that became a friend for 12 years. She is one of the many people who made a big difference because of her patience and kindness.

  3. March 21, 2013    

    Hi Karen,

    Your story is such an example of someone who met your daughter where she was at, but didn’t let her stay there. How hard to say good-bye to such a wonderful person. But even her leaving sounds like God at work, helping Samantha take one more step forward.

    Jolene

  4. March 21, 2013    

    Hi Karen,

    Your story is such an example of someone who met your daughter where she was at, but didn’t let her stay there. How hard to say good-bye to such a wonderful person. But even her leaving sounds like God at work, helping Samantha take one more step forward.

    Jolene

  5. Ksthy Ksthy
    January 15, 2017    

    Any advice for girl age 8 with cp aND seizures.She doesn’t mind too bad washing her hair but struggles when you brush or cut her hair.there won’t even be any tsngles.sometimes she cries real tears.

  6. January 16, 2017    

    I wish I had some advice for you, but I’m no expert in this area. Do any parents who follow this blog have ideas? Jolene

  7. Olga Olga
    May 5, 2017    

    Kathy I have a son with CP and Epilepsy as well. Sensory issues take time. I used to start bymassaging his scalp and just playing with his hair as i cudddled with in bed. If shes okay with that. Try brushing her hair when shes at her most comfortable and relaxed state. Talk to her in a soothing voice. You could say “lets make some pretty hair.” Already have the brush or comb within arms reach so u dont disrupt the comfort youve created. As she lets u do continue — “Oh my goodnight how gorgeous its getting. Doesnt that feel nice?” All the while using the soothing voice. Also notice i didn’t once use the words brusb comb or fix. Imagine it being therapeutic instead of a chore. If youre dreading brushing hair chances are she is too. My son is nonverbal but is the very intuitive of other peoples emotions and completely understands tone.

    Oh i almost forgot dont mention what xour going to try to attempt or let her see the brush or comb before youve evenstarted.

    I hope this was helpful#goodluck

  8. May 8, 2017    

    Great ideas. Thanks, Olga!

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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.

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