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Common Hair Cut Challenges for Kids with Special Needs

The haircut experience is different for every child. For some, it’s traumatizing while for others it can be an overwhelming experience. Talking about friends with special needs, the experience is usually a little scary. 

At Shears2Cheers, we aim to make the process smooth and a greater experience for children who require special attention. We also offer some before and after tips to make the experience unique.

Preparing Children with Special Needs for a Haircut

When it comes to haircuts, go for a professional who has past experience dealing with such children. It’s because children with special needs require extra attention and care. For some children, loud noises or sharp lights might bother them.

Here’s what children with special needs go through when getting a haircut and why is the process challenging for the parents. 

Sensory Sensitivities

Children with special needs, particularly those with conditions like autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or sensory processing disorder (SPD), often experience heightened sensitivities to sensory stimuli. The typical sensations associated with haircuts, such as the touch of hair being cut, water spray during washing, or the buzzing of clippers, can be overwhelming and distressing for these children. Sensory sensitivities can lead to anxiety and resistance during the haircutting process, making it crucial for parents and hairstylists to be aware and accommodating.

Difficulty with Sitting Still

A common challenge faced by parents and hairstylists during haircuts for special needs children is their difficulty in sitting still. Factors such as hyperactivity or poor impulse control can make it challenging for these children to remain in one position for an extended period. This difficulty can complicate the hairstylist’s task of working quickly and accurately, requiring a tailored approach to accommodate the child’s unique needs and tendencies.

Communication Barriers

Children with special needs may encounter communication barriers, particularly those with speech and language delays or communication disorders. Expressing needs, preferences, or discomfort during a haircut becomes challenging, and hairstylists may find it difficult to understand and address the child’s requirements. Effective communication is crucial for a successful haircut experience, making it essential for parents and hairstylists to explore alternative communication methods or tools to facilitate understanding.

Fear and Anxiety

Haircuts can evoke fear and anxiety in many children with special needs. Previous negative experiences, unfamiliar environments, or the presence of unknown individuals can contribute to heightened apprehension. Recognizing and addressing these fears is essential for creating a positive and supportive haircutting experience. By implementing strategies to alleviate anxiety, parents and hairstylists can contribute to a more relaxed atmosphere, fostering a sense of security for the child.

Sensory Aversions

Specific sensory aversions can pose challenges during haircuts for special needs children. Certain sounds, textures, or sensations, such as the noise of clippers, the feeling of hair falling on the skin, or the touch of a cape or towel, may trigger aversive reactions. It is crucial for hairstylists to be aware of these aversions and make adjustments to the haircutting environment to minimize sensory discomfort and create a more tolerable experience for the child.

Unpredictable Behaviors

Children with special needs may exhibit unpredictable behaviors during haircuts due to their unique challenges. These behaviors can range from sudden movements to outbursts or resistance to the haircutting process. Understanding and managing these unpredictable behaviors require a collaborative effort between parents and hairstylists. Implementing effective strategies to navigate and respond to such behaviors contributes to a smoother and more successful haircut experience.

Fine Motor Difficulties

Fine motor difficulties, often associated with conditions like cerebral palsy or developmental coordination disorder, can present challenges during haircuts. These difficulties may manifest as an inability to hold their heads steady or difficulties cooperating with hairstylist instructions. Adapting the haircutting process to accommodate fine motor challenges is crucial for ensuring a comfortable and successful experience for special needs children.

How to Overcome These Challenges?

Remember that each child is unique, and it’s essential to tailor the approach to their specific needs. Building a trusting and supportive relationship between the child, parents, and hairstylist can significantly contribute to a more positive haircut experience for children with special needs.

Here’s how we overcome the above challenges in a professional way.


Effective preparation is key to a successful haircut experience for special needs children. Familiarizing the child with the haircutting environment and tools in advance can significantly reduce anxiety. Utilizing visual supports like social stories or videos helps them understand what to expect during the haircut. This proactive approach allows the child to become more comfortable with the idea of a haircut, minimizing potential stressors.

Sensory Accommodations

Making adjustments to the haircutting environment based on the child’s sensory needs is essential. Creating a quiet and calm space, using soft and gentle materials, and allowing the child to bring their preferred sensory items, such as headphones or comfort objects, can make the environment more accommodating. These sensory accommodations contribute to a more positive and comfortable haircut experience.

Gradual Desensitization

Introducing the child to the haircutting process gradually is an effective strategy. Starting with small steps, such as allowing the child to touch and explore the haircutting tools or simply sitting in the salon chair without proceeding with a full haircut, can help build familiarity. Gradually increasing exposure to the various aspects of the haircutting process over time enables the child to adjust at their own pace.

Communication Support

Addressing communication barriers is crucial for a successful haircut experience. Using visual aids or alternative communication methods, such as picture boards or sign language, facilitates effective communication between the child and the hairstylist. This ensures that the child’s needs, preferences, and any discomfort are clearly understood and addressed.

Breaks and Rewards

Recognizing the importance of breaks during the haircutting process is vital. Allowing the child to take breaks provides them with a chance to relax and reset, reducing potential stress. Positive reinforcement, such as small rewards or praise, serves as motivation and acknowledges the child’s cooperation. Incorporating breaks and rewards into the haircutting routine contributes to a more positive and enjoyable experience for the child.

Collaboration with Professionals

Working in collaboration with professionals experienced in special needs care, such as occupational therapists or behavior specialists, can be highly beneficial. These professionals can provide valuable guidance and strategies to support a successful haircut experience. Collaborative efforts ensure that the hairstylist is equipped with the necessary tools and knowledge to address the unique challenges associated with special needs children, enhancing the overall quality of the haircutting experience.

Your Professional Hair Stylist!

Children with special needs require a special protocol to go through the process. They, therefore, need emotional support along with care to get it done.

If haircuts are challenging for your little one, it’s possible that you might face difficulty during the process. Shears2Cheers offers a facility where you can bring your loved ones for free in a professional and friendly environment.

John Doe

John Doe


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