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Haircutting and combing for children with sensory issues

To make home hair care enjoyable for your child, here are some tips to ensure the experience goes smoothly:

Show the shampoo to the child. Let the child smell and touch the shampoo. If you are going to use conditioner repeat the same process.

For shampoo and bath time you will want to make this time fun but quick. Let the child have a bath toy to play with for comfort. Some families use a shampoo and body wash combination product This will make the process easier, with one multi-purpose product.

Rinse the shampoo until the water runs clear.

If the child is sensitive to having their hair combed, use a leave-in spray detangler. Using a detangling product means there is nothing to rinse out of the child’s hair and it will make combing the hair easier. Comb the child’s hair with a wide tooth comb, this will create less tension on the child’s hair and be more comfortable for the child.

If you are going to apply a styling product on the hair, repeat the process of showing them the product, let them smell and touch it and then apply the product to the hair.

To dry the child’s hair, show the child the blow dryer, and turn the dryer on to a warm setting (not high/hot) with a lower speed. Blow some warm air on the child’s hands or arms so they can feel that it’s warm and will not hurt. If the child is comfortable with the blow dryer, proceed with drying the hair.

If you want to use a brush to assist with the drying, use a paddle or vent brush. These types of brushes will not put added tension on the hair. Help your child to be involved in their hair care routine.

While brushing or combing longer hair, start by coming out the ends of the hair first and then slowly work your way up towards the scalp.

Before your child’s haircut you may want to think about the following:

Speak with the salon manager about just coming in so that your child can be acquainted with the environment.

Schedule an appointment during a time when the salon is not as crowded so there are less distractions for the child.

Speak with the stylist before hand about any particular sensitivities that your child may have.

Identify reinforcers or preferred items that your child likes. For some children it’s a favorite toy or book, for others it’s a treat.. This way the experience may be remembered as positive.

Take a digital picture of the reinforcer or preferred item to remind the child what he is earning.

Review the steps of getting a haircut with your child (see the visual schedule on page 5 of this pamphlet).

Practice the steps of getting a haircut with your child at home before bring your child in for a haircut.  This will help to gently remove and tangles and pulling on the hair.


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