Firstly, our children, very often, have sensory processing issues. So, the simple stroke of a hairbrush can be very uncomfortable and even painful for a child who would be known as a sensory-defender. Secondly, our children are very literal. They may fully believe that getting their hair cut will hurt. Thirdly, children with autism often experience levels of anxiety that make a visit to the salon very difficult. And lastly, because communication is often impaired in children with autism it can be very difficult to explain the concept of getting a haircut even with social stories, signs and modelled behaviour.
Unfortunately, a trip to the salon can result in a meltdown for some children on the spectrum. Trust me when I say a meltdown is not a tantrum. A meltdown is usually sparked by an overload of sensory input. Yes, you've felt sensory overload before, too, but the difference is, YOU can regulate yourself. Our children often cannot and will use stimming as a self-regulating tool until even that does not help. It cannot be solved by giving the child what they want, like a tantrum. It must run its course and we do our best to help keep our child and others safe during one of these episodes.
The haircuts at home took place on our deck. I would hold Kate down with all my strength while her hairdresser cut her hair as quickly and as well as she could while Kate screamed and writhed in my arms. She would often scream so loud and for so long that we would pause and listen for sirens. I still wonder what our neighbours must think.
I once thought it would be a good idea to show Kate the hair that had been cut and had fallen on the deck. I held up the blonde curls hoping it might make her feel better. Remember, when I said they were literal? Yeah, it didn't go well. She shuddered in fear. Things escalated. Oh well, live and learn.
I was stunned. The hairdresser was stunned. Grace was stunned. I waited for her to change her mind. I braced for the biting and the crying but they didn't come. She did it. She sat for a haircut like a champ. I am still smiling. Her sister was so proud of her that she asked me to take Kate's picture. She is kindly helping Kate look towards the camera in this photo. You'll understand if this is one of my favourite photos ever. Our team is taking another win today.