How Happy Haircuts Happen
How happy haircuts happen for kids with sensory processing disorder (SPD) is the subject of today’s guest post. Mark Arnold describes how understanding SPD leads to happy haircuts at for his son James.
We are all sensory creatures who explore, understand, and engage with the world through all our senses. This is true for those with additional (special) needs, too.
Before the Haircut
Haircuts can be a difficult experience for children and young people with additional needs. The feeling of the hair being cut, the bits of hair going down the neck or landing on the face, the noise of clippers, or seeing their hair on the floor can be too much.
Our son James only tolerates haircuts under very specific conditions.
First, he must have his hair cut on his sofa, his favorite, safe, place. Next, I must be the barber, and his mum must assist by collecting all the hair up as it falls. Third, he must have something he likes on his iPad as a distraction during the haircut.
I use clippers all over his head. It’s the only style I can do. I start at the back, out of sight, so he gets used to the clippers. Then I do the front, leaving the part around the ears until last. When only the bits of hair around the ears are left, I am nervous that James will refuse to go on and will have the weirdest hair style in town! With the soundtrack of Top Gun in my head, I take the clippers into the Danger Zone around the ears!
When the worst is over, it’s just a matter of tidying up. I check that the two sides are level, that the back looks neat, and no wispy bits have been missed. With some encouragement, and the reassurance that I’m done with the danger zone, we finish off.
A bath to remove scratchy clippings is helpful and then we are done. We offer James lots of positive praise for coping so well and a reward of his choice. Then we show him how much smarter he looks, which usually gets a smile!
After the Haircut
Routines are important. When they are followed, even difficult experiences like haircuts can be endured and completed well. That’s how happy haircuts happen at our house. Also, we only cut James’ hair every three to four months. That allows plenty of time for imperfections to grow out and for him to accept the clippers once again!
By Mark Arnold
Mark Arnold is the Additional Needs Ministry Director at Urban Saints, a leading national Christian children’s and youth organization. He is co-founder of the Additional Needs Alliance, a national and international advocate for children and young people with additional needs or disabilities. Mark is a Churches for All and Living Fully Network partner, a member of the Council for Disabled Children and the European Disability Network. He writes an additional needs column for Premier Youth and Children’s Work (YCW) magazine and blogs at The Additional Needs Blogfather. He is father to James, who has autism spectrum condition, associated learning disability, and epilepsy. To find out more about how Mark’s work can help you, contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or @Mark_J_Arnold
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