Visiting the barbershop can be an intimidating experience for a child. It can be especially challenging for a child diagnosed with a disability. My son AJ was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was 2-years-old. AJ struggles with sensory sensitivity which can be triggered by loud, repetitive noises, bold colors and patterns. The buzzing sound of hair clippers causes AJ stress. He may sob loudly, jump up and down while flapping his arms, cover his eyes, ears and face with his hands. When this happens, I know AJ has just experienced sensory overload.
My husband isn’t a professional barber and doesn’t intend to pursue a barber career. He decided it would be in AJ’s best interest to have his haircut at home. He was motivated to learn (through trial and error) to cut AJ’s hair to ensure he was properly groomed in a comfortable environment. AJ still experience sensory overload while getting his haircut at home sometime, but we have a couple of tools set in place to help him better cope with the stress of a hair cut.
AJ loves to hold small Teddy Bears or stress balls in his hand. Squeezing them tight helps him to relieve stress during a haircut. I’ve noticed when AJ is holding these small objects in his hand, he doesn’t jump up and down out of his seat while getting his haircut. He may cry due to the buzzing sound of the hair clippers but he isn’t sobbing loudly when he is holding a Teddy Bear/stress ball in his hand.
After a haircut, AJ enjoys getting his hair washed during shower time. He likes when the water from the shower run down his face. However washing his hair in the sink is the worst experience ever. AJ sob and scream as if my husband and I are waterboarding him. It isn’t a good feeling watching my son react this way, so hair washing in the shower is the better option for him. We wash AJ’s hair once a week.
I once had a friend ask me why I continue to allow AJ to get his haircut knowing that this experience can be traumatic for him? As a mother, I cannot allow my child to go to school, go to church, and or play outside with friends without being properly groomed. I know first hand how badly people talk about children with special disabilities. And In the Black Community, it is frowned upon when a child doesn’t look well kept. Especially a child who can not take proper care of himself. Everything will not be perfect in AJ’s life. As his mother, it is my duty to support him through his triumphs and challenges. Although getting his haircut isn’t his favorite thing to do his experience is getting better with time.
Do you have a child with special needs? How do you support them when it comes to grooming?