Saturday, March 29, 2008

Giving an SPD Child a Haircut


Just in case you are reading my blog and think that all is perfectly dandy in my house....here's how my morning was...

My son (SPD, 3 years old) HATES haircuts. If you have a child with SPD, or an autistic child with sensory issues, you probably know where this is going...! Monday is picture day at pre-school. This will be his first school photo, and I think it might even be his first professional-type photo EVER! So I figured we should try to trim the mop of angel feathers that was his hairdo.

We went to the Cartoon Cuts at the mall. Kid-friendly. TVs at each station. An elephant trunk washes your hair, etc. As we neared the place, he started saying "I don't want my haircut!" (we had been there once before for his very first haircut and he probably remembered the trauma.) I told my husband maybe we should just get our daughter's hair cut and do our son's at home. I guess he was feeling brave because he said we should just get it done. "You have to hold him down, then," I said. "Okay, I'll hold him down."

So hubby takes son over to the chair and sits down with my son on his lap. Hubby gets a gown thing, but my son wasn't having it. We didn't do the hair wash. Out come the clippers. Here come the screams. "No! No! Don't do it!" The haircut lady, bless her heart, worked quickly and I don't know how she actually got anything done amongst all that stress. My hubby was holding his arms as the little blonde hairs were flying all over the place. We hadn't cut his hair in a very long time, so it was very long and was coming off in sheets. Since he didn't have a gown it was getting all over his face and in his mouth and his eyes and all over his skin. If you know anything about SPD, you know that these little hairs can feel like knives whereever they land, not to mention the noise and feel of the cutters, the lights, the weird smells, the unfamiliar environment...it resembles some sort of primitive torture on an enemy. "Mommy! Mommy! Don't do it! Please! Stop it!" my child screams in front of me while I can do is have a strange smile on my face while my body kind of shuts down to preserve my inner soul. The little kid next to him is sitting politely in his chair while his dad looks at us with kindness but is probably thanking his lucky stars that his child is "normal." The old lady in the next chair has a tortured look on her face and is openly asking her hairdresser if more boys than girls scream like that because of the clippers. (Why this old lady gets her haircut at Cartoon Cuts is beyond me.) "We have to go get my 2-year old granddaughter's hair cut soon, and I sure hope it isn't like THAT!!!" she says (ummm, hello? i am right next to you and can hear you!)

I consider telling this lady, "My child has autism" to make her shut up and mind her own business, but -- oh wait -- my son doesn't have autism, at least not according to any professional's diagnosis.

My son is getting really worked up into a frenzy now. My husband, who normally flies off the handle at the drop of a pin, is calmly soothing him saying, "It's okay sweetie, we're almost done." There is sweat literally dripping off his forehead.

The hairdresser is now using a wet comb to style the "do" then whips out the scissors and starts cutting chunks off the top of his mop. My child yells "Ow!" as if she is cutting his skin instead of his hair (and for SPD kids, it actually CAN feel like that). The hairdresser with the old lady next to us tells the lady, "See, it's not just because of the clippers -- look he's crying with the scissors too." The old lady frowns and looks like we have somehow interrupted her relaxing trip to the spa.

The hairdresser starts making tiny snips here and there for some sort of attempt at "style" and I look at my husband and say, "I think that's enough." My husband tells the hairdresser we're done, and my son gets off the chair with fine little hairs ALL over him. The hairdresser throws some talc on his neck and my immediate reaction is to think, "Is it gluten-free!?!?!?!?"

My son is angry and crying. His eyes and face are red, and there is spit and drool streaming out of his mouth. His nose is runny and he is coughing (no doubt has hairs in his throat). We hustle him into the bathroom. "I have an extra shirt," I tell my husband. I'm so proud of myself for thinking ahead and knowing that the little hairs would bother my son. My son sits down on the floor of the bathroom without a sound and stares off into the distance. Uh oh. I know that look. I see wetness overtake his pants. "He's peeing," I say to my husband in a calm voice. Of course I neglected to bring an extra pair of underwear or pants with us. The chaos is obviously starting to affect my husband. He has been a trooper and has done his part, so I tell him to go out and get our daughter at her station and to pay and I would take care of our son.

My son starts taking off his pants, hitting the sides of his head with his hands. "I'm a bad boy!" he cries, obviously feeling ashamed and embarrassed to have wet his pants. I help him get his pants and underwear off, and I change his shirt. I squat on the floor and just hold him and let him cry. He starts to calm down and I whip out the organic lollipop I had in my bag (I knew this would come in handy when all the other kids were getting their artificially colored lollipops from the hairdressers.)

My son cries and says, "Pants! Pants! I need some pants, mommy!" I try to give him the wet ones to put back on, but this makes him cry "No! They're wet! Too wet!" (One of his sensory aversions is to wet clothing -- this is what keeps him from going into a swimming pool too, as he tries to take off his swimming suit the minute it gets wet.)

With no change of pants and about a 10-minute walk back through the mall to get back to our safe haven of a car, I'm at a loss for how to handle the wet pants thing. I pick him up and wrap my coat around him, but he screams, "No! Not the coat! It's no good!" most likely meaning that something in the feel or material of the coat bothers his bare skin.

So we hang out on the bathroom floor some more. All of a sudden my son lets loose an amazing scream and starts crying hysterically. "My lollipop cracked!" he shrieks. He then takes an aggressive bite out the lollipop and throws it across the bathroom floor. My son looks like a rabid animal at this point, with red eyes and saliva flowing out of his mouth as he tilts his head back and is lost in the trauma.

Never fear, for prepared mommy is here! (oh yeah, except for the pants thing.) I whip out another all-naturally flavored lollipop from my bag. He slaps the sides of his face and stomps his feet saying, "No, no no no no" then takes it from me and calmly starts sucking on it.

In a calm moment I tell him quietly, "Kaya, we need to go now. I need to hug you with my coat, is that okay?" And he says, "Okay" and produces a tremendous yawn. I pick him up and wrap my coat around him and exit the bathroom. I briefly notice that everybody is staring at us, but I am too concerned about not letting my son's bare ass hang out that I don't care. I am on a mission to get my naked child out of the store, through the mall, and out to the car.

Thankfully, my husband and daughter are waiting for us outside the store, with all haircut payments and (hopefully large) tips disbursed. We walk through the mall and all is fine. We are calm. My son is relaxed and hugging me, licking his 2nd lollipop. He is slipping down, down, down, but I'm worried about jacking him back up onto my hip because the coat might slip. My husband tells me he's covered and all is fine, although I feel a breeze on my "muffin top" belly hanging off my jeans, so I'm sure that while my son is modestly covered, I am baring my fat-ass belly to the entire mall. Whatever....

People look at us and most likely wonder why our child apparently has no pants on and his shoes are off with a coat wrapped around him. But we are fine. We know that the worst has passed us. The torture session has stopped and we can get our sweet boy back again.

Our son starts talking to us in his angel voice, pointing out interesting things he sees in the mall. It's like nothing ever happened. (Well, there was the incident back in the car when the 2nd lollipop cracked, but that was short-lived.)

On the way back home, our son sits in his car seat naked, staring out the window in a daze. My husband and I agree that we should just cut his hair at home from now on, where it's "safe" for him to pee in his pants and scream.

We also agree that we need to continue our pursuit to find the root cause of his SPD and to continue to treat him with the diet, with supplements, and possibly chelation (I should have taken his heavy metals analysis hair sample BEFORE we went to the mall!)

5 comments:

Jason said...

I still have the teeth marks on one arm from my little guy giving me his seal of disapproval on haircuts at the barbershop. Five years later, and a few really bad haircuts, I'm the only one that cuts his hair. It took time. He still whines a bit about it, but in the end, he lets me cut his hair. But, no one else! ;-) I'm happy to be his personal barber.

Anonymous said...

I am enjoying your blog. Although my eldest has Aspergers, at 19 years old,she is at college now and doing well. She still has sensory issues but after a decade or so of therapy she can handle 90% of things ok.
Now we are starting over with a new ADHD 6 year old who is newly GFCFSF. He is terrified of getting his hair cut also and we don't even use the clippers. Often haircuts in the past took 2 days while he was sleeping. It is better now, he is at least awake, but still in tears and hysterics. We only cut hair once a year, at the beginning of summer...

danielle said...

My son was diagnosed with spd last week at a 4 yr old IEP for school. At first I was really upset and cried, but now I guess I am a little relieved that he's not a bad kid and I'm not a bad parent. I write this after a traumatic day of trying to cut his hair and disagreeing with my husband about the best course of action. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone.

Ryan Lamprecht said...

At just shy of 3 years old, our son was diagnosed with SPD. From what we read online, his case is relatively mild. He went through several months of occupational and some physical therapy with a company that specializes in SPD. It did help his strength and balance, but after about 7 months, the therapy seemed to hit a brick wall. He no longer seemed to be gaining anything from the therapy, yet they were still doing the same routines each visit, so we decided to stop the therapy. I mention this to provide some background.
Right around the time he turned three, we started noticing haircuts were becoming more and more of an ordeal. Gradually, over the course of a few months, he went from being a typical two and a half year old boy who fidgets and looks around while the stylist bobs and weaves to get her job done, to an all out brawl resulting in him being held down while he kicks, screams, and begs for it to stop. As I said, this decline in cooperation was gradual, getting worse with each haircut. His last haircut was a month ago. We recently moved from Illinois to Arizona, and found a place that specialized in cutting childrens' hair. They place has TVs, cartoons, and video games at each cutting station. Well, none of this was of any help, as the scenario progressed to me (dad) walking outside while my wife held him down on her lap while he received a less than stellar looking hair cut. I can't tolerate seeing him in such peril, so I typically remove myself from those situations.
Over the past two days he and I (dad) have showed up at Sport Clips, waited our turn, and shortly after his name is called, had to leave because the meltdown started the moment he was asked to climb into the chair. Three days and two visits later and we're no closer to getting a hair cut. We are now at a point where we don't know what to do. I refuse to have him held down while he fights and seemingly pleads for us to stop the torture. I welcome any suggestions. ryanlamprecht@yahoo.com

Ryan Lamprecht said...

At just shy of 3 years old, our son was diagnosed with SPD. From what we read online, his case is relatively mild. He went through several months of occupational and some physical therapy with a company that specializes in SPD. It did help his strength and balance, but after about 7 months, the therapy seemed to hit a brick wall. He no longer seemed to be gaining anything from the therapy, yet they were still doing the same routines each visit, so we decided to stop the therapy. I mention this to provide some background.
Right around the time he turned three, we started noticing haircuts were becoming more and more of an ordeal. Gradually, over the course of a few months, he went from being a typical two and a half year old boy who fidgets and looks around while the stylist bobs and weaves to get her job done, to an all out brawl resulting in him being held down while he kicks, screams, and begs for it to stop. As I said, this decline in cooperation was gradual, getting worse with each haircut. His last haircut was a month ago. We recently moved from Illinois to Arizona, and found a place that specialized in cutting childrens' hair. They place has TVs, cartoons, and video games at each cutting station. Well, none of this was of any help, as the scenario progressed to me (dad) walking outside while my wife held him down on her lap while he received a less than stellar looking hair cut. I can't tolerate seeing him in such peril, so I typically remove myself from those situations.
Over the past two days he and I (dad) have showed up at Sport Clips, waited our turn, and shortly after his name is called, had to leave because the meltdown started the moment he was asked to climb into the chair. Three days and two visits later and we're no closer to getting a hair cut. We are now at a point where we don't know what to do. I refuse to have him held down while he fights and seemingly pleads for us to stop the torture. We welcome any suggestions. ryanlamprecht@yahoo.com

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