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Haircare Tips

Hair washing

  • Use a large container of water for rinsing, the extra weight of the water might feel better on your child's head rather than sprinkling water from a shower or a cup.
  • If your child dislikes rinsing, you might build up to it; start by rinsing their legs, then rinsing from their shoulders, and then pouring rinse water over their head. Or count together e.g. one, two, three, rinse.
  • Wash just the ends of the hair, not the scalp, and over the course of several sessions, work up to washing all the hair.
  • Try no-rinse shampoo and bathing products (, no water is necessary.
  • Use a foam visor or a washcloth held over the child's face when rinsing. You might also dry their face immediately after washing it.
  • If you take a bath with your young child, let them pour water over your head and face before doing it to them.
  • Massage the scalp before getting it wet. Vibrating hairbrushes can be used before and after hair washing.
  • Use earplugs to prevent water from getting in your child's ears.
  • Have your child wash their doll/ teddy or toys hair, or yours, before they have theirs washed.
  • Sometimes children with sensory issues resist closing their eyes when having shampoo rinsed off because they're afraid of falling and are unsure of where their body is in space. Use a tear-free shampoo so they can keep their eyes open. Or have then hold onto you or use your hands to press down firmly but gently on their shoulders to help them know where their body is when their eyes are closed.

Hair brushing

  • Prepare the scalp beforehand by pressing down on the head or giving a nice head massage.
  • Before, during and after hair brushing, use a soft brush or massaging brush to stimulate the scalp.
  • Use a tangle-free conditioner
  • Use a brush with a lot of bristles so you don't pull at the hair too much or use a special detangling comb or brush such as a 'Tangle Teaser'.
  • Sometimes when children can see themselves in a mirror while their hair is being brushed, they have a greater sense of control and can tolerate the brushing more easily.
  • If your child can brush their own hair, let them; they might be able to better tolerate it.
  • Try letting your child sit on a bean bag chair for deep pressure- or use a weighted lap pad (or something similar e.g. heavy book), while you're brushing.
  • Always brush from the bottom up to avoid too many knots. If the hair is long, hold the hair with one hand while brushing the ends to avoid tugging at the scalp.
  • Fun hair accessories and 'doing each other's hair' with another friend or with you might inspire your child as well.
  • A hat, braids, or ponytail can provide constant pressure to the scalp, which is calming for some children.

Hair cutting

  • As with hair brushing, decrease tactile sensitivity on your child's head before a haircut by giving a deep pressure massage to the head and scalp.
  • If your child is sensitive to noise, avoid using an electric razor or having their haircut when some in the hairdressers is using one.
  • Go to a child friendly hairdresser, or have a mobile hairdresser come to your house.
  • You could wrap your child snugly in a towel.
  • Bring extra clothes with you so your child can change afterwards if they cannot tolerate the feel of cut hair falling on them. Or, if the child has their hair cut at home allow them to have a shower or bath to rinse off any stray hairs.
  • Your child might be able to tolerate having their hair cut while it is wet as it is heavier and there will not be as many irritating stray dry hairs falling on them.
  • Let your child listen to music, have a fidget toy or sit with something heavy on their lap while having their hair cut.

Useful resources:
A Practical Approach at Home for Parents and Carers: Autism Spectrum Disorders
Children with Disabilities Team Occupational Therapy Falkirk Council
Is it Sensory or is it Behaviour: Behaviour Problem Identification, Assessment, and
Intervention by Carolyn Murray-Slutsky and Betty, A. Paris.
Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske.

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