For children with autism and other sensory disorders, activities like haircuts, nail trimming, personal care and grooming routines that should be simple often are not. This may be rooted in hyperacusis (sensitivity to certain frequencies of sound) or a fear of the grooming tools or processes themselves.
You can mitigate their negative reactions in several ways, individualized to each child. Also, remember that everything is subject to change. As caregivers of special needs children, we are nimble and know that a strategy that works well one week may not be as effective the next. Stay on your toes! And keep your wits and wit about you. There are ways to make personal care and grooming comfortable and manageable. No parent wants a fight every night over bathing and teeth brushing, but we’ve all been there. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of hygiene.
The Right Supplies
There are tools out there that can streamline your family hygiene routine. With the click of a button, you can order a silent trimmer, earplugs, or noise-canceling headphones. And just like that, your sound-sensitive child is blissfully unaware of the grating or alarming noise of scissors and clippers. Keep those things around, so they don’t take on a dark and ominous appearance associated with an unhappy, anxiety-inducing requirement. Manicure scissors may be preferable to nail clippers. Find what your child responds well to, and adjust your routine for his or her comfort and well-being.
Keep Things Light
Oh, phones and devices and apps, a bane and a blessing of this 21st century parenting adventure. Use these tools to your advantage when you are grooming a special needs child who is being uncooperative because the sights and sounds are disturbing or distressing. We have found that humor can almost always diffuse an escalating situation. Use a zany app that shows what your child would look like with rainbow hair, or a jaunty mustache. Tell them about a disastrous hairstyle you rocked in your youth – hyper hair-sprayed bangs or orange tanner, anyone? Keep them calm and either engaged or distracted, depending on the circumstances. Find what soothes them, and lean in. You never know when a funny filter is going to save the haircut appointment, and the day!
Find Your Person
We are lucky. There is so much more mainstream awareness now about mental health disorders, special needs, and the spectrum. There are experts and professionals out there who get it, who have done the reading, or who have a special child in their own lives. Sometimes your child will gravitate toward a particular person who has a calming presence or a disarming way of doing things. Use the folks in your community when you can. We are all always reaching out and looking for ways to help and connect. Schedule an appointment with the stylist who makes your kid giggle, so that grooming is easier on all of you. At About Kids Home Health we know that even the little moments can be tough, but there are triumphs that make it worth it, and guidance when you need it. All of your concerns matter to us.