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Anxiety-Free Haircuts for Aspergers and HFA Kids

With Aspergers and High Functioning Autism (HFA), the brain seems unable to balance the senses appropriately. It's common for these youngsters to have sensory problems. They may be hypo-active (low sensitivity) or hyper-reactive (high sensitivity) or lack the ability to combine the senses.

Aspergers and HFA kids often have a "fight or flight" response to sensation. This condition is called "sensory defensiveness" and may be diagnosed as a "sensory processing disorder." These children can be sensitive to many things (e.g., the noise hair clippers make, the sensation of cutting hair, feeling loose hairs on their body, seeing hair fall on their clothing or the floor, etc.). When their perceptions are accurate, they can learn from what they see, feel, or hear. On the other hand, if sensory information is faulty, their experiences of the world can be confusing. Many young people with Aspergers and HFA are highly attuned - or even painfully sensitive - to certain sounds, textures, tastes, and smells.

Here are some proven strategies that will facilitate your Aspergers or HFA child getting an anxiety-free haircut:

1. Allow your youngster to give an old doll or teddy bear a haircut while his own hair is being cut. This may help your youngster learn to generalize the experience. You or the barber can also use the doll or teddy bear to demonstrate what it is you need or expect your youngster to do. For example, act out directions to "turn your head to the right" or "hold your head down." These are strong visual cues and may be better understood.

2. At home, find opportunities to teach daily living skills, particularly hygiene and grooming. For example, your youngster may learn how to:
  • choose an appropriate outfit to wear
  • clean the shower/tub
  • determine how long to stay in the shower or tub
  • put his dirty clothes away
  • run his own bath water at the right temperature
  • shower or take a bath independently
  • undress/dress
  • use deodorant
  • wash his body properly

3. Before you begin, it is better to wash the hair to remove any hair products build-up. Cutting clean, dry hair with clippers is much faster and easier. Use unscented shampoo and conditioner if your youngster is sensitive to smells or odors. (Warning: Some kids on the autism spectrum do not like having their hair washed.)

4. Be sure your youngster has a cape, sheet or towel draped over him.

5. Buy a good quality home hair-cutting kit. Look for clippers with blade guards to avoid cutting the hair too short.

6. Develop a routine for haircuts. Does your youngster need a haircut or trim every week, every other week or once a month? Try to schedule them for the same day of the week and time of day whenever possible (e.g., every other Saturday morning). Be consistent.

7. Edge the front, sides and nape of the neck first for a shape-up then cut the hair. Should your youngster not tolerate a haircut before you or the barber is done, a shape-up will give him a clean, fresh haircut look, even if the hair has not been entirely cut.

8. Explain to your youngster exactly what you are planning to do during the haircut. Use short sentences or visual supports using personal photos or picture icons. Take pictures while your youngster is getting a haircut. Take a picture of all the items used.

9. Focus on the task at hand. Try to cut the hair as fast as you can without rushing. Try not to stop cutting hair to talk to others, in person or on the phone.

10. For a youngster that is sensitive to the buzz sounds of the clippers or the snap of a scissor, try using soft, flexible ear plugs. Does your youngster like to sing? Sing a song. Play some of their favorite music.

11. Observe your youngster while cutting his hair. Is there anything he particularly dislikes or finds intolerable? If so, try to eliminate it or make it better.

12. Once the haircut is done, admire your youngster's clean-cut appearance (e.g., "You look handsome!"). Show him how he looks in the mirror, if tolerated. Take before and after photos so he can see the benefits of getting a haircut. Use this opportunity to begin to teach him how to comb and brush his own hair.

13. Help your youngster learn how to help put items away, clean and oil the clippers, sweep or vacuum cut hair off the floor, put dirty clothes and towels in the hamper or washing machine, etc. He can also learn how to sort laundry, load and wash his clothes, put clothes in the dryer, fold clothes, and iron.

14. Reassure your youngster during the haircut. Explain each step of the way in a slow and steady voice. Praise him (e.g., "Good job keeping your head still"). Let your youngster know that there is an end in sight. This step may be faded out gradually as your youngster becomes more familiar with the process.

15. Remember to give your youngster a reward or bonus that he will enjoy. Give your youngster a choice for his bonus. A reward or bonus will show him that although we must do unpleasant things sometimes, we also get to do things that we enjoy.

16. Schedule a haircut when your youngster is least likely to be sensory overloaded or feeling overwhelmed by the information he is taking in through the five senses: hearing, vision, touch, smell and taste. Try to avoid scheduling haircuts after school or when your youngster is ill or tired.

17. Take each haircut session one at a time. Observe your youngster, take notes if necessary. You will learn more about him each time.

18. Think of a few activities, toys or food your youngster really enjoys to use as his special reward or bonus. What does he like to do? What makes him happy?

19. Under supervision allow your youngster to handle the clippers and other items used for the haircut. At home, allow him to help you prepare for it (e.g., he can get a towel and the comb or brush). Teach him how to clean the clippers (e.g., brush off any loose hairs from the blade and oil the clippers). This can be a good motivator – and it's fun learning in the natural environment.

20. Unless your youngster is better able to tolerate a haircut, keep their hairstyles simple (e.g., "fades" and elaborate parts and designs in the hair will take longer to cut).  


More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

____________________

Do you need the advice of a professional who specializes in parenting children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders?  Sign-up for Online Parent Coaching today.

____________________

Aspergers 101: The Basics

Essential Aspergers Information That All Parents And Teachers Need To Know:

Aspergers/HFA Children and Dental Appointments: 40 Tips for Parents

Taking your Aspergers (high functioning autistic) son or daughter to the dentist can be a difficult experience for both child and parent. Here are some helpful tips to effectively deal with dentist appointments:

1. Ask the dentist to lean the chair back before your child gets in it, because sometimes Aspergers and HFA children don’t like the feeling of being moved backwards.

2. Bring along a sibling or friend and let your child watch as the doctor or hygienist performs the task on them first.

3. Collaboration and teamwork are essential for a successful trip to the dentist.

4. Consider some physical exercise (e.g., riding a bike) to be done before and after the visit for calming.

5. Create and read a social story about going to the dentist with your child. The social story should take the uncertainty out of what will happen at the dentist office.

6. Deep pressure can be used before and during the visit for calming.

7. Dentists should review your youngster’s medications and supplements.

8. Discover what could potentially be difficult at future visits.

9. Find some good books about practicing good oral hygiene and going to the dentist that you can read with your child.

10. For those children who grind their teeth or engage in self-injurious behaviors (e.g., picking at the gums, biting the lip), a mouth guard may be recommended.

11. Having a dental professional who can communicate with your child effectively will be very important.

12. If the noises of the office are upsetting, request to be moved to a more quiet or private area. If not available, the use of headphones or an iPod are good ways to limit noise.

13. If you have any dietary or chemical restrictions that you are following for your youngster, be sure to make your dentist aware of these before the appointment begins.

14. If your child has seizures, you will need to discuss this with your dentist. The mouth is always at risk during a seizure, because kids may chip teeth or bite their tongue or cheeks.

15. Ignoring inappropriate behaviors is something you’ll want to inform the staff about.

16. Include an incentive/motivator for when the appointment is over (e.g., stop for a treat afterward).

17. Instruct the staff that your youngster responds best to immediate praise for good behavior (e.g., “Great job keeping your mouth open” … “I like how you are holding still” … “You did great while I cleaned your back teeth”).

18. Instruct the staff to prompt the child with time durations as they work (e.g., “This will be all done when we finish counting to 10” … “I need to touch 20 teeth, so help me count them all” … “That gritty paste will only be there for 1 minute and then you can rinse and spit”).

19. Is your child familiar with daily tooth brushing? If not, consider working with an occupational therapist to teach him good oral hygiene habits.

20. Know that lighting in a dental office is often too strong for a child on the autism spectrum. Let him wear sunglasses and request that the staff try to keep the light out of his eyes as much as possible.

21. Let your child get familiar with the dentist office environment before the actual dental work is performed (e.g., let the child try out the chair, let the hygienist look in his mouth or count his teeth, let him listen to the sound the drill makes, etc.).

22. Let your child squeeze a therapy ball in his hands while he is in the chair (if he finds it comforting).

23. Let your child touch and examine the dentist’s tools before the dentist starts working, if possible.

24. Letting your child know ahead of time how long something is going to last can be very helpful.

25. Maintaining a calm voice may help to minimize behavior problems.

26. Make a fun game out of counting your child’s teeth before the dentist appointment.

27. Schedule a few short “trial visits” to start off with. Keep these visits very positive and short.

28. Sedation is sometimes a good idea (e.g., if the youngster has high levels of anxiety or discomfort, for uncontrolled movements like gagging, when extensive dental treatment is going to take place).

29. Share your child’s coping strategies with the dental staff before the visit.

30. Show the tool or action they are going to use before the procedure.

31. Slowly desensitize your child to the experience by talking about your personal experience with the dentist.

32. Tell your child what they are going to do before you ever get to the dentist.

33. There are many potential sensory challenges at a dentist’s office (e.g., tastes, smells, textures, sounds, lights, etc.). Knowing what areas your child tends to be sensitive will help you know what coping strategies to try.

34. To ensure that tastes are familiar and favorable, bring your child’s own toothpaste and toothbrush to the visit.

35. Try using a bean bag chair in the dentist’s chair during the exam to provide some snug comfort.

36. Use of visual routines and a timer are helpful for good daily brushing habits.

37. Use the child’s toothbrush or a plastic tooth mirror and get him comfortable with letting you put it in his mouth.

38. Vibration toys that are safe for oral use, or even electric toothbrushes, are good for getting your youngster accustomed to the strange sensations in his mouth.

39. Ask if the dentist has experience with Aspergers and HFA kids and if he/she has special procedures in order to optimize each visit. Ask about those procedures. Some procedures you might ask about are:
  • having a short wait time
  • having an appointment at a time of day when your child is at his best
  • having the same staff at each visit for consistency
  • sitting with your child in the room while doing the exam

40. Consult your child’s Occupational Therapist for additional suggestions.  


More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

____________________

Do you need the advice of a professional who specializes in parenting children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders?  Sign-up for Online Parent Coaching today.

____________________

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content