How to survive a haircut SPD-style

Before haircut.

Before haircut.

SPD – Sensory Processing Disorder – means the world is too bright, too loud and too prickly, except when it’s not.  Then it’s time to crash into things, bounce off walls, hit, throw and chew metal forks in search of sensory input.

A paradoxical disorder where sensory input is jumbled and the messages received do not accurately represent the stimuli.  Screaming pain? Oh, that’s from touching peach fuzz.  Crying and covering ears?  That’s from the kindergarten class singing.  Zooming around the living room, spinning and crashing into furniture?  That’s from lack of proprioceptive input.  Sensory Processing Disorder is a world of too much, too little and all at the same time.

The very accurately named five year old Mr. Sensitive has SPD.  He chews metal forks at the dinner table while the tags in his shirts irritate him to no end.  Clothing tags are a battle we simply don’t fight.  Snip.  There, tag is gone.  Feel better now?

You can imagine what getting a haircut is like for Mr. Sensitive.  Each hair moving on his head is painful to him.  Never mind actually cutting – snip! –  and feeling hair falling on his skin.  Oh, the itch!  A single hair touching his skin is worth a thousand agonies.

Fortunately I was a pet groomer for a number of years.  I was the one in the groom shop who took those ‘hard to handle’ pets – miserable terriers, frightened poodles or matted cats – that no one else could groom.  Now I trim my own kids’ hair. When they let me.  In many ways cutting dog or cat hair is easier; you can always muzzle a dog or restrain a cat.  Not so with children.  Although I probably do come close.

The other night, I am proud to announce, I gave Mr. Sensitive a haircut.  His hair was so shaggy we were afraid it was causing pink eye.  And honestly, his last haircut was in September.  It’s now the end of March.  So there was trimming to do.

Seeing as nail trimming and SPD caused great discussion on Twitter and here, I thought I’d take everyone’s ideas into mind.

Step one – give the kid his melatonin.  Yes, this makes him sleepy.  Yes, the doctor prescribed it before his bedtime.  Yes, I’m drugging my kid to give him a haircut.

The melatonin doesn’t do much for a panicking child faced with a pair of scissors.  I still had to deal with the whole fight or flight reaction, and make sure everyone is safe during the haircut.  This is where my pet grooming skills come in.  If I can trim the moustache around an angry schnauzer’s mouth without getting bitten or cutting the dog, I can trim the hair on a wiggling five year old.  But most days I’d rather the schnauzer.

Step two – strap Mr. Sensitive into the baby’s booster seat.  Mr. Sensitive does well squeezed into places where he feels comforted and secure.  The bonus is he cannot move too much.

Step three – put on the mutually agreed upon movie as distraction.  With Buzz and Woody fighting it out, I could snip, snip, snip my way around Mr. Sensitive’s shag.  I promised him it wouldn’t be too short.  Once he realised I wasn’t going to scalp him, he relaxed a little.  I went with an early Justin Bieber look.

Step four – keep cutting!  Even if he’s protesting, I’m not stopping.  I quickly snip off any untidy ends, making sure I catch loose hair in my hand.  If it falls on Mr. Sensitive I am sunk.

Step five – Admire haircut and put the child into the bath.  Scrub, scrub, scrub.  That way there is not a single loose hair to touch his skin.

When Mr. Sensitive saw his new haircut, he said, “I thought it would be shorter around my eyes.”  This is after he kept telling me not to trim it at all and to keep it long?

Step six – write this post.

We’ve tried professional hairstylists for him in the past, and it was even more traumatic for everyone involved.  Poor Mr. Sensitive talked about his one and only professional haircut experience every time he saw the shop or its logo for months afterward.  It’s just easier at home.  And luckily, he doesn’t hold grudges

What are your experiences with haircuts and SPD?  Do you have any advice?  Please??


About Angela

Super-powered, Special Ed teacher and special needs mama to FOUR (!) children with an assortment of special needs; including Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Prader Willi Syndrome. Our family features a heavy dose of good ol' ADHD). I blog about our halfpastnormal life.
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One Response to How to survive a haircut SPD-style

  1. Ciara MacGrath says:

    We are lucky that we have a barber who had a son on the autism spectrum who comes to our house and cuts hubbies and son’s hair. He has the patience of a saint who follows our son’s lead and every six weeks or so our son gets his hair cut. How he tells us when to call the barber. He gets his hair cut shirtless and has a shower straight after 🙂

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