Haircutting and people with learning disabiltities

I am interested in finding out about different approaches people have used to support people with LD having their haircut.

I have recently started supporting a 17yr old young man who has been held to have his haircut for a number of years prior to my involvement, both at home and (some time ago I believe) also in a hairdressing salon.

This has now thankfully stopped, but I have made only limited progress with the approaches that I usually use.

Part of the difficulty is of course to regain the young man’s trust with the whole process and therefore I am taking a very gradual approach to the issue, working on understanding his sensory needs, identifying what aspects of the process the young man finds difficult or dislikes, de-sensitisation, etc

Another aspect is also trying to assess the young man’s capacity about the decision not to have his haircut and to wear it long. Up until now the young man has always had a ‘grade 2’ style clipper cut.

If anyone has any ideas they have used successfully with people who are highly resistant to having their haircut, I would be very grateful to hear about these.

Just a thought, but people on the autistic spectrum often find it hard to accept that the hair and nails can be cut without causing pain as they are clearly part of their body. I suppose if your sensory perception is not reliable it may be hard to tell whether you are actually feeling pain or not.

It seems very brutal to hold him down and cut his hair so unnecessarily short, no wonder he objected. As long as he can be helped to keep it clean surely there is no problem with him growing his hair. At 17 he should be given some choice in the matter. It might be good to encourage him to look at pictures of different styles and ask him to express a preference. Maybe just try to get him to take an interest in his own hair. As I don’t know the young man I appreciate that this might be easier said than done.

Best wishes and good luck

There is a hairdresser in South Wales (can’t remember just where!) who offers special times for people on the autism spectrum. There are no other people present apart from supporter(s), no music or bright lights. I seem to remember they are happy for someone to come in and just look/sit/be shown other people having their hair cut. One person would only sit on the floor, so that’s where their hair was cut. May be worth doing a search to get details - or maybe someone at Learning Disability Wales could tell you more? Then you could talk through how they approach people.

No one should be held down for this to happen - and the idea of being held down then a loud buzzing happening would frighten me. A number of men I know have long hair, often tied back. And don’t a number of male sports stars? So it isn’t beyond the bounds if he really doesn’t want it cut.

A friend posted this on FaceBook

"Someone met the most amazing man on the plane over to Chicago on Thursday. His name is Jim Williams and he’s a barber…a barber who goes the extra mile (miles and miles) for children and adults with autism. Who does this by being attentive and responsive, by caring and listening and feeling. After one hair cut with a young boy during which Jim lay on the ground to cut the hair he has founded an amazing charity Autism barbers assemble and is now speaking across the world about how barbers can help … ‪#‎theworldcanbeagoodplace‬ ‪#‎heroesonaplane‬ " has a list of sympathetic autism friendly barbers.

My son was terrified of the clippers and the noise they made. His barber uses scissors, very carefully and is very patient. Would a barber visit this young man at home, in a safe environment? Can you distract him with a video on an IPAd?

Lots of young men have beautiful long hair. But it is difficult to maintain, wash and dry and keep out of the way of food etc,

good luck!

I found it difficult cutting my sons hair when he was small. He was so resistant and I had to use bribes like chocolate buttons and/or a drink to keep him sat still whilst I cut his hair, My husband used to hold his hands to stop him from grabbing the cable.
as the years have gone by he has become much more tolerant to hair cuts. I show him the shear and tell him I am going to cut his hair, he is 22 now and just lets me do it. He doesn’t like it but he does let me do it. I give him a number 4 and cut it regularly every 5 weeks or so to keep it short, he has quite wiry hair.

My husband then takes him upstairs and showers the lose bits off and then he has a bath, which he enjoys.
So our strategy has alwasy been to give him something he enjoys before and after haircuts.

There is a shop somewhere, I am sure it is called Daniels, I read about it. But it was a while ago.

Have you also seen this link?

My son is 49 and has complex learning and physical disability, is also autistic and lacks capacity to make his own decisions. He has never been very cooperative when having his hair cut mainly because he doesn’t like being touched and also because he doesn’t like the sound of the haircutter. We tried various barbers when he was young which was very traumatic for my son so me and my husband decided we’d cut his hair ourselves and although it was difficult at first we did get into a reasonable routine but it was never easy for my son. We discovered after a few years that he was more cooperative when he’d had his evening shower and whilst his favourite music was playing. He even tolerated us placing a hand on his forehead as we used the cutter which was a real breakthrough, however, it all depended on his mood on the day. When he moved into his supported living flat 13 years ago he went back to square one regarding cutting his hair and it was heartbreaking to see how stressed he was becoming as care provider managers said he needed to get used to going to the barbers the same as most men his age and suggested that we were using restraint by placing a hand on his forehead. Several of his support staff were willing to cut his hair but I had to fight to get senior management to acknowledge just how harrowing it was for my son and his support team by taking him to the barbers. and fortunately they agreed to draw up a best interest decision making procedure and although he still has his moments my son is much calmer and cooperative which is a major achievement not only for him but his team too. He now has his hair cut at the end of a ‘pamper’ day by a member of his team, three of them have an exceptionally good relationship with him and he obviously feels comfortable with them. They have developed their own ways of cutting and my son copes really well most of the time. His pamper day begins with an aromatherapy session at his day centre, over time the therapist has enabled my son to become more tolerant of being touched and he now lifts a hand as she begins her session which we never imagined he would ever do. When he arrives home his chill out continues with relaxation music and then after tea his projector casts calming images as he gets ready for his spa bath. His team decide whether to cut his hair just before or after his bath and always speak and act in a more quiet manner during this time which really helps. It has been a long and at times a very steep learning curve but we think we’ve finally found a system that my son can cope with and cannot praise his team enough for continually looking for alternative ways to enable him have a very good quality of life, This system works for him and has been arrived at by trial and error, other people will need a different approach and we constantly need to think outside the box to support people like my son for whom the right box has yet to be discovered. Good luck. MrsBee

Could you try a social story, show him what is going to happen?
Maybe you could arrange to go to a barber so he could just watch? Maybe seeing other people getting their hard cut and how they’re ok after could help.
If he has sensory issues maybe hold the clippers to get used to the feeling?