Activities like haircuts, nail trimming, other personal care tasks, and grooming routines that come easily to many of us can be a source of distress and discomfort for those with autism or sensory processing disorders. This may be rooted in hyperacusis (sensitivity to certain frequencies of sound), tactile sensitivity (perception of discomfort or pain in response to certain types of touch), or light sensitivity. It could even be a result of a fear of the grooming tools or processes themselves.
Consider a hair salon. They are brightly lit with many competing loud noises. The feeling of a stranger’s hands, scissors, and/or clippers in your hair can be significant. For individuals with sensitivity to one or all of those sensations, a hair salon can be a truly awful place.
Here are a few tips to help you help your loved one.
Consider your tools.
For those with sensitivity to noise, consider a silent trimmer, earplugs, or noise-canceling headphones. This can help reduce the direct exposure of the grating or alarming noise of scissors and clippers for your sound-sensitive loved one. Nail clippers can be jarring, loud, and sudden in their action. Consider manicure scissors instead. Be sure to ensure consistent exposure around your home so that they don’t have the potential to increase anxiety as a new and unknown item; consider using them yourself around your loved one.
Consider distraction to improve mood.
To reduce the intensity of the lights and sights, consider sunglasses and allowing your loved one to hold and play with a preferred item or game. Maybe let them watch a video on a device. If these seem to escalate your loved one’s response to the sensations, consider other ways that keep them calm and engaged in other situations (sing their favorite song, hold their hands, do fingerplays together while sitting directly in front of them).
Find Your Person
Consult your community. Mainstream awareness about mental health disorders, special needs, and neurodivergence is increasing. There are personal care and grooming experts and professionals out there who get it, who have done the reading, or who have a special loved one in their own lives. Sometimes your loved one will gravitate toward a particular person who has a calming presence or a disarming way of doing things.
At About Kids Home Health we know that even the little moments can be tough, but there are triumphs that make it worth it. All of your concerns matter to us; we are here to help.