Autism/PDD and Haircuts — The Bump
Special Needs

Autism/PDD and Haircuts

My DS has PDD.  I took him for a haircut today.  He didn't do very well, he screamed, cried, and moved around the whole time.  We made it through, but his neck got a little nicked up from the clippers.  Sometimes he sits with me and sometimes he sits by himself.  He sat by himself today.  Sometimes with haircuts he's great, but other times are like today's haircut.  Does anyone have any tips for making the haircut experience a little less painful?  I was thinking about getting clippers and trying to do his hair myself, but I'm afraid I would do a horrible job, and I'd rather have him go to the hairdresser like any other child.

Re: Autism/PDD and Haircuts

  • I used to do ABA therapy for kids with Autism and PDD NOS.  I had a client who did not like haircuts, so we developed a program for him that gradually broke down the whole process and provide reinforcement for each small success.  Try to breakdown the process into steps such as looking at the clippers/scissors and have him look at them, touch them etc.  Provide lots of verbal praise and reinforcement with favorite candy or toy (reserve this candy or toy for use only during the haircut process, don't give free access during the day so that the haircut can become paired with the reinforcer.)  Begin everyday with the mastered steps and then try the aquisition step.  Continue working on the same aquisition step everyday until there are constistent successes, then add another step.  Very gradually build up steps of the haircut, such as combing the hair, wetting the hair, and touching the clippers to the head, etc, etc.  Do this everyday until they become comfortable.  It will take a lot of time and patience, but it should eventually work.  The most important thing to remember is being consistent and following through.  Hope this helps!
  • hi! I posted above a story about a man who was autistic as a child.. ironically after the conference I went to while waiting in line to speak to him, the people in front of me had your exact concern so I will share with you what he told them....

    The parents said it is literally such a fight and challange to get their 5 yr old to allow a hair cut that his hair is too long to manage now. so the speaker raun, asks them what are his favorite things. They said airplanes. So he asked them if they were opposed to using a clipper, getting is pretty short and then not having to cut it again for a few months. they said sure but that the noise would upset him. he said oh i know i just wanted to make sure you aren't picky about the cut style..

    then he went on to tell them that the clipper is now an airplane. do not go in with any intention of cutting it. he told them to have a ton of affect and show him this new cool airplane and that everytime they turn it on it flies everytime they turn it off it lands and sits .. then a few days later introduce it again as this super cool special airplane that cuts hair but not his... the doll, dads, (the dad suggested the bunny) etc.. this hair cutting airplane only cuts super cool hair blah blah. then as the week goes on , everyday you say oh that airplane is so cool and on tuesday of next week or wahtever day you choose, that super cool airplane is going to cut your hair.. and get him ready . he explained that it is the single most out of control requirment in their life. They have no control over their body AND it's a sharp object..  I don't know what your son prefers but these people were pumped and Ijust bet it will work :)

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  • This is a really great post.

    My son does not like haircuts. I do not let them buzz his hair, as he does not like it. Usually if they let him see the scissors, what they are *using* it is a bit takes A LOT of distraction and I try not to cut his hair all that much...

    but HE HATES getting his brushed...

    He dislikes the scissors and all of that but he REALLY HATES the buzz (sound or feeling, not sure).

    I like the suggestions put out there about exposing your son...but have you tried without the buzzer?

    I hope it works out!!!

    You will forever be my best friend. I can almost feel our hugs. I will ensure everyone will know (now and in the future) what a genuine, kind, loving person you were...I already miss your laughter and our daily conversations. I love you, Samantha. May 20, 1983- February 20, 2012
  • this was great reading for me.

    We bought the clippers and I do it myself, but it's a moving target and I go really short because it's traumatic for all of us, and I can't chance having more than 3 haircuts a year for sanity. 



    Maybe i'll try the airplane approach. 

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