Making It Up As We Go Along


Shampoo bottles come with instructions, kids do not. And when those kids turn up with sensory issues and can’t stand to have their hair touched, mother and child both wind up in a tangle.

My son Thomas has sensory issues, to put it mildly.  When he was young, food had to be a certain texture, temperature and size.  In order for him to eat it, food has to be cut up into bite-sized pieces, and the choices of what he would eat were limited.  Clothes had to be a certain fabric so you could forget about jeans.  Not happening.  Liquids couldn’t be too cold or too hot.  Yet he loved all things involving water.  He loved bubbles, loved jumping and wrestling with his brothers.  But you could forget about getting his hands dirty, so that meant no playdough, markers, or dirt.  He was a constant contradiction and mystery to me.

Yet, I could see, the world was oftentimes an overwhelming place for Thomas.  A loud basketball game with the whistles, squeaky shoes and cheering fans could send him into a tantrum.  A restaurant full of strange smells could almost make him sick.  A grocery store with a long line at the checkout could seem torturous, and a long drive in the car would seem endless in his mind.

And GOD FORBID you touched his hair.
Don’t touch it
brush it
or good heavens CUT it.

Thomas and I have been turned away by many hair salons in our town.  We’ve attempted to get his haircut in many of them but he puts up such a fit, the barbers usually tells us they cannot do it.  He cries and puts his hands by his ears or over his face.  He squirms and tries to get out of the chair.  All “no-no’s” in the barber chair.  And, I get it.  The barbers are worried they’re going to hurt him accidentally.  But I didn’t know what to do because he doesn’t want me to cut it either!  However, if there was anyone he trusted, it was me, so I had to learn.

With a little help from some YouTube tutorials I began cutting Thomas’s hair in the bath, his happy place.  I would let him have a few minutes of playtime and then climb in in my shorts and between cuts, I’d pour water over his head.  I would take my time, talking him through it and even though he’s screaming, he would permit me to do it (sort of).  I cut, he screamed, I’d pour water over his head.


We had to make up our own operating instructions. Not exactly enjoyable for either one of us, but it is something we as parents do to untangle difficult situations so that we can move forward.


Today, Thomas is 10 years old and haircuts are not a problem.  I don’t remember the exact age it changed, but as he matured, we could reason with him more.  We found a wonderful local salon that would work with him by letting him hold the clippers and give him a break in the middle if needed.  We talked to his teachers and we made him a book all about getting a haircut, complete with photos I took of the hair salon, the barber and her hair-cutting tools.  We read the book to him often and it slowly got easier.  Today?  He asks to get his haircut.  I never would have thought that would happen when he was little.  Never.  But so thankful that it has.