Hair Cutting and Nail Trimming

Hair Cutting and Nail Trimming

Hair Cutting

Firstly look at why your child dislikes these activities. Your child may have sensory sensitivity to touch, sound or smell? This sensitivity may create a fear response in them that prevents them from completing these activities. If you can work out why they dislike a particular activity it can help you develop and increase their tolerance.

Before the Haircut

  • Show photos of the salon so that they know what to expect, try taking them to meet the hairdresser and familiarise themselves with the environment, without the pressure of having their hair cut right away.

  • Use visual aids/social stories about what to expect and tailor it to their own sensory needs. Read this regularly for three weeks prior to any visits and continue to read it during the appointment.

  • Allow them to observe a family/friend having their hair cut, to give them an idea of the process and begin to feel comfortable.

  • Change you vocabulary – use the word trim instead of cut to make the process less frightening.

  • Use ear defenders for noise or chewy chews to help them be calm when they arrive at the salon.

  • Complete some heavy work activities, such as, jumping or wall push ups. Complete a head/neck massage to help desensitise their head.

During the haircut

  • Bring visuals, “now and next” cards or a timer to the salon, so your child has some awareness of the length of time the hair cut will take and what activity will follow after, e.g. haircut then park.

  • If they dislike the sound of the clipper, see if scissors can be used or try using headphones/ear defenders to block out some of the noise. Make sure they are still able to hear you, so that they do not become scared at unexpected touch.

  • Consider using a fidget toy, a favourite book or toy to help them to remain calm throughout the haircut. This will also help focus their attention away from the haircut onto something they like.

  • Consider having your child on your lap whilst they have their hair cut. You can then offer deep pressure hugs, which can assist them to stay calm.

  • Try using a towel and clip rather than a plastic gown, as this can be irritating.

After the Haircut

  • Give your child lots of praise and rewards if appropriate.

  • Complete some heavy work activities, such as, jumping or wall push ups. Complete a head/neck massage to help desensitise their head.

Nail Trimming

Firstly look at why your child dislikes these activities. Your child may have sensory sensitivity to touch, sound or smell? This sensitivity may create a fear response in them that prevents them from completing these activities. If you can work out why they dislike a particular activity it can help you develop and increase their tolerance.

  • A few days before actual nail trimming, start to practice nail trimming on a piece of card. Encourage your child to draw around and then cut out their hand using card. Draw on fingernails and allow them to practice cutting the nails with scissors. Use the same scissors or nail cutter you plan to use for the actual nail cutting, therefore your child will be familiar with them. Practice this on several occasions.

  • Try to name the activity something different, such as nail trimming, as the word ‘cutting’ may cause anxiety.

  • When trimming nails, scissors are usually less threatening than nail clippers, as they are quiet and don’t cut jagged edges. There are also some novelty nail clippers that are available which are usually smaller and may be more motivating.

  • Ensure your child’s hands are “ready”. Allow them to complete heavy work activities and activities to encourage weight bearing through their hands such as crawling or animal walks.

  • Soak hands in water so they are soft or trim nails following bath time. They may also benefit from a firm hand massage using deep slow firm movements, allow them to massage their own hand if they want to.

  • Firmly hold each nail you are trimming. Your child may also benefit from holding a fidget toy in the other hand to assist them to remain calm.

  • Use a social story to show the sequence of events and use a visual timer to show how long the task will take, whilst counting down the nails you trim.

  • Praise your child, even if they only manage to tolerate one nail being trimmed at the beginning.

  • Complete some heavy work activities to help them to relax and release some energy or some further head massage, as they will have been sitting for a while.

Occupational Therapy Department
Please ensure that adult supervision is given when completing these activities.