By Christine Denise
Autism Mom and Contributing Writer for As You Are, a virtual clinic dramatically increasing access to early autism diagnostic services through the use of exclusively telehealth appointments
My son Louie had some of the cutest fine baby blonde hair I’ve ever seen, and I waited two years to have it cut.
He had not yet been diagnosed, but we already knew he had a genetic disorder and significant developmental delays.
Luckily for us, his grandmother is a retired hair stylist. And she took her job as the personal groomer for all of her grandchildren very seriously at the time.
When it came time for our son Louie to sit in her chair, he, like his neurotypical siblings and cousins, he wiggled and did anything but sit still for the big moment.
She only used scissors, knowing noisy clippers freak any kid out that age.
We got by with grandma’s scissor cuts for a few years until she began devoting all of her time caring for her husband as he battled cancer.
I saw a discount hair salon near our house and decided to give it a try.
Let’s just say, it didn’t go like grandma’s did.
The stylist was about his grandmother’s age – at least, she looked like it to me. I hoped her maternal instinct would kick in when I asked her to be patient because my son has special needs and might be a little more challenging than her other clients.
By that time, he was already in her chair.
She barely looked at me and looked annoyed that I was hovering over him to gently hold his legs in the chair so he wouldn’t try to swing them too much — or bolt. And she was annoyed that he wasn’t looking up from his iPad.
She didn’t listen when I told her he wouldn’t do well with clippers, and he spun his head around and opened his mouth as soon as she tried to use them.
“He’s trying to bite me!” she shouted.
To this day, I have no idea why I let her finish the job instead of just grabbing him and storming out.
The haircut was terrible.
The experience was terrible for all of us.
A few weeks later, I tried a different discount salon down the street.
This time, I had a discussion with the stylist before I put my son in the chair, explaining his aversion to clippers and how he’s used to his grandmother’s scissors. Then I asked the stylist if she still wanted to cut his hair, or if we should go somewhere else because I didn’t want a repeat of what we had experienced the last time.
That was six years ago. And the stylist we met that day is a member of the sacred village that helps us raise our son.
She talked to Louie and explained everything she was doing, even though he kept his head down looking at his iPad and is nonverbal.
And, she invested in a silent pair of clippers. He’s still not the biggest fan of them. And, some hair cuts go better than others for him to this day.
I’ve since read news stories about other stylists across the country devoting one day a month or a week strictly to special needs clients. They really are out there.
The most important thing I can tell you about adventures in hair cutting along this journey is to try and seek out a stylist and have an honest conversation with them before you even set foot in the door, let alone let your child sit in their chair.
Establish expectations ahead of time.
Tell them it could get loud and challenging inside their salon.
Share what has gone right and what has gone wrong in previous appointments.
And, most of all, realize it might not go well every time.
You may have to end it early.
Or you might not even get to the chair at all.
But at least you’ve done all you can to prepare for this part of the adventure.
Do you have questions about your child’s development? The team at As You Are provides useful autism screening and diagnostic evaluations for kids 16 months to 10 years old via telehealth appointments.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This is a sponsored blog post, but all opinions are my own.