Monday, April 06, 2020

How to Cut Your Autistic Child's Hair at Home

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Tips for how to cut your child's hair at home.

I have always cut my kids' hair at home.

Yep, that means they've never been to a salon or gone for a professional/proper haircut. And even before I had kids, I would give my husband haircuts at home.

Cutting hair at home is easy to do. Plus, the cost savings alone make it totally worthwhile. My kids' hair grows ridiculously fast, requiring haircuts every 4-6 weeks or so, so the thought of dropping $15-20 per kid like 8-10 times throughout year, is crazy to me. Besides, I'm cheap frugal as heck!

But our decision to start cutting my kids' hair at home was mainly due to my oldest's sensory preferences.

Taking him to a salon for a haircut would have been super challenging. Even at home during those first few haircuts, it was quite the task. The feel of the cut hair falling on his neck. The vibrations of the clippers. The sound of the clippers. It's a lot to take in for him. That sensory overwhelm would have been magnified by going to an unfamiliar place with an unfamiliar person.

And since we already had a hair cutting kit at home, it was an easy decision to make. We just started cutting our kids' hair at home.

So with over 10 years of hair cuts at home under my belt now, I thought I'd share some of my hair cutting at home tips, with a special focus on autism haircut tips.

And please note, I'm not a hairdresser. The tips you find below are based on my personal experience.

Autism haircut tips: hair cutting tips at home with your autistic child

Tools You'll Need for Cutting Your Child's Hair at Home

To get started with hair cutting at home, you'll need:

  • A haircutting kit that includes clippers, attachment guards, combs, and a pair of scissors - Our kit is similar to this one, but ours includes a hair styling cape, a mini clipper (that I think is meant for mustache trimming, I don't know), and clips to hold the cape or long hair in place.
  • A towel, bedsheet, or shower curtain to use as a cape
We have a bunch of random old shower curtains (my parents own a motel in a small town so that's where we got them from) so that's what we use for our haircutting cape. Any cut hair slides down it and it's large enough to cover a grown adult. The size is great (much better than the cape included in our haircut kit) because it means less itchy hair touching your child's skin, which is key if they have sensory issues.

How to Cut Your Child's Hair at Home: What We Do

Here's how we do haircuts at home:

  • We always plan our haircut nights on bath nights so that the kids can go for a bath or shower immediately after their haircut to wash off any loose hairs.
  • We cut in the kitchen above a tile floor, making clean up a breeze.
  • The kids sit on a bar stool so that they're the right height and so there's no chair back to compete with. When they were little (even as a toddler and preschooler), I used a Bumbo chair on the floor and it worked amazing because it provides lots of deep pressure to help ground them.
  • We use a shower curtain as cape, as mentioned above, as it's large enough to cover their entire body.
  • I use electric clippers with attachment guards to cut my boys' hair at home. Using clippers allows the hair to be cut more evenly and is much faster than going the scissors route - trust me!
  • I trim up their neckline and around their ears using a comb and the mini clipper that's part of our kit. 
  • Once the hair is cut and I remove the cape, I always remove the boys' shirts in case any loose hairs fell down their neck and into their shirt. Then I use the shirt to dust off any loose hairs on their neck or face. A shirt is much softer than using a brush to dust off the hair.
  • I offer lots of breaks to prevent sensory overwhelm and dust off or blow off any loose hairs stuck to their neck or faces. This is key!

Autism Haircut Tips & Sensory Considerations

When you are cutting your autistic child's hair at home, it's important to consider your child's sensory preferences. For instance, they might not be able to stand the vibrations or sound of the clippers. Or they might find the material of the cape uncomfortable.

Here are some accommodations to keep in mind when giving your autistic child a haircut at home:

  • Use something soft for a haircutting cape such as an old bedsheet - something that can be easily washed - or place a soft towel between your child and the cape
  • Opt for scissors instead of clippers as they are less noisy and don't have vibrations to worry about
  • Offer your child ear defenders during the haircut and try to cut around them as much as possible (there will obviously be a few areas on the head that this wouldn't be possible) or use earplugs
  • Give your child something to fidget with during the haircut like a Tangle for their hands or a chair band for their feet
  • Let your child sit on a wobble cushion to let them wiggle as needed
  • Dust off cut hair from your child's face and neck frequently
  • Offer lots of breaks and work in chunks
  • Check in frequently as you cut to make sure your child is still okay and comfortable
  • Have a shower or bath immediately after to wash off any loose hair
  • Consider your child's mood (i.e., don't try cutting their hair if they're already had a long, rough day)
  • Put on a TV show, movie, or some music that your child likes and use it as a distraction during the haircut
  • Talk about what you are doing (e.g., I'm going to trim above your ears now) so that you child knows what to expect and where

Other Resources You'll Love

Free Hair Cutting Social Stories

Printable Social Scripts

Resources to Support Autistic Children

Autism haircut tips: suggestions on how to cut your child's hair at home