The Silent Treatment

When your child is virtually non-verbal then you have to play detective in order to work out what he is trying to communicate, but yesterday Joshua made his feelings pretty clear. I had booked him a haircut at 4.30 as he has thick, unruly hair, like both of his parents, and it was getting too long and getting in his eyes.  In the past, haircutting has been very traumatic and  it took three of us to hold him still for the stylist to access his locks. But over the years, the same hairdresser has worked with us to gain his trust and confidence and that hard work is really paying off now.

So I decided from school that it was better not to go home first as Joshua likes to kick off his boots and relax when he gets in, so it would have been a struggle to get him out again after just 30 minutes at home. So instead I drove to his favourite ‘Donalds from school to buy him the treat before his hair-ordeal, warning him en route what would be happening later. As we approached the fast food restaurant, he began grinning and pointing, he knew exactly what was about to happen. Although he was slightly put off that we were not going inside, but that we used the Drive in facility but he enjoyed his fish finger Happy Meal in the car. He devoured it hungrily and it certainly made him happy.

We arrived in our home town at 4.20 so walked slowly to the salon, as Joshua scowled as we drove past the end of our lane and headed into town instead. He restlessly paced around the salon in his cape while he waited for his hairdresser to finish with her previous client, but fortunately Joshua is very vain and so being surrounded by mirrors kept him amused. As she approached with first clippers and then scissors, he sat well, clutching the salon telephone in his good hand and with his head bowed. It was only when she reached his fringe that I needed to assist by holding his head up and a colleague held his hand, to prevent him from swiping her scissored hand away.

Once completed Joshua ran his hands through his new haircut, admired himself in the miorror, whipped off his cape and began  sweeping up the hair on the floor. He even uttered a quiet ” thank you”. This calm teenager was a million miles away from the screaming little boy who had to be thrown out of a barber shop with half a style and who we had to use clippers on at home , sitting on my knee on a kitchen chair in the utility room. Joshua made small objections last night but nothing extreme and so the years of patient perseverence have really paid off and I am eternally grateful. She sprayed him with after-shave as he was leaving so he smelt and looked gorgeous and there was real relief all round.

A hair-brained scheme

I am just back from taking Joshua to the hairdressers for his smart back to school trim. In the past these have been nightmare occasions when I have needed strong arms to restrain him and ear plaugs against the noise. But  this latest visit was very calm. I could not say that Joshua enjoyed the experience yet as he held a very serious expression on his face throughout but he did not thrash about in his gown or complain at the top of his voice. He had his eyes shut much of the time but he did not attempt to bite his finger, which is something that he does when he is very distressed. He only uttered a single ‘no,no,no!’ in protest but he seemed to accept his fate.

At one time, such a passive reaction could never even have been dreamed of and for that development , I am truly grateful. I am not sure if it is because he now accepts its inevitability, if he secretly enjoys admiring the smart results in the mirror, if he enjoys all the feamle attention or if we are all better prepared for the outbursts, but today was a much simpler and more relaxing experience than I was dreading.

I hope that our experience can bring hope to the parents who are still struggling with angry toddlers who are defying the scissors and are getting thrown out of barber shops, as we once did. My advice is to persevere and to seek out an understanding hairdresser who can accommodate your child’s idiosyncracies, without making either the child or parent feel uncomfortable. My son left the salon with gel in his hair and a smile on his face and he will adore the attention that his shorter hair will no doubt now attract. All is now well until his thick unruly hair grows back, but until then I am happy to enjoy this sense of real achievement and to offer hope.

Haircut hell

I was in a meeting yesterday at school with two other mums and school staff and we strayed onto one difficulty that we had all three experienced with our sons : that of getting their hair cut. All three boys have a different diagnosis and traits, but all have special needs and all of them detest having their hair cut.We were discussing the topic as the youngest boy has had his hair cut this weekend, by his desperate parents. The teacher in the meeting had been able to make hair trimming a game for another boy in her class and had successfully achieved something that his parents could not manage and had asked for help.But clearly school staff, even those with a background in hairdressing, are not allowed to restrain our children in the way that we have all had to.

It makes some sense to me why it should be such a frighetning experience : in a salon, a stranger sits you down in a a large chair, covers you up in a gown and then begins to work around your face with sharp clicking scissors! You then see part of yourself fall away as you lose possession of your fair baby hair. I always told Joshua, while he screamed and thrashed about, that it did not hurt, but nonetheless, I can see that it would still be frightening.

After Joshua was thrown out of a barber when he was much younger, after the stylist cut her finger while trying to trim his moving head, for several years we would use clippers on him at home.  Joshua would sit on my knee in the hall, with me clamping his thrashing arms down at his side, while my husband attempted to clip his mop of hair like a wooly sheep being shorn. He would scream and wriggle throughout the process, so all stress levels were high, but at least we were satisfied that it was so short that it would not need doing again for another six months and at least the trauma was not in a public place, like a salon.

As Joshua got bigger and older, and realised that this ordeal was not going away, he got more difficult to hold on my knee but he calmed down slightly. We were ready to try the salon once again. We set the scene carefully : booked an appointment at the end of the day when everyone else had gone home, had two members of staff available and turned the music up loud. The first time last year, he was cross but nothing like before and gardually each visit he has got calmer and calmer. So much so that last time, he did not need his hands restraining at all, and he enjoyed checking his new look out in the mirror!

So I want to offer hope to those parents out there who, like I did, get so worked up  at the prospect of a haircut but despair at their long-haired scruffy child, who has yet another way of looking different to his peers. Keep trying and if Joshua is anything to go by,  your child will finally tolerate it and for the first time in his life, he has a proper hairstyle, rather than a shaved head!

Hair today, gone tomorrow

After a full day at school yesterday and a visit to Occupational Therapy, I took Joshua to my hairdresser for his haircut. You should know that Joshua has never liked having his haircut : as a young boy, we were thrown out of a local barber’s when the hairdresser cut her finger, in trying to negotiate her customer who was waving his hands around and moving his head from side to side, while protesting loudly. She refused to continue, even though his hair cut was only half complete. So I took Joshua to my own hairdresser’s to beg her to finish off his incomplete haircut.

Joshua cried, screamed and hated the experience, despite reassurances that she was not going to hurt him. We continued in that way for several years, with Joshua sitting on my knee while I clamped his arms down.  But this was difficult for my hairdresser, stressful for me and most importantly, upsetting for Joshua. I did not like restraining him in this way and so we resorted to annual haircuts to minimise the agony.

Then we arrived at a new solution and I bought my hairdresser’s old professional clippers from her and my husband and I began to clip his hair at home. I would sit on a kitchen chair with Joshua on my knee, while my husband would painstakingly shave his head. It meant his hair was neat – but was never stylish – and we cut it so short that this was a rare trauma. We learned that while he objected during the process, he enjoyed looking at himself in the mirror afterwards and we did not have the humiliation of being in a public place. He gradually got better behaved, less wriggly and with less ‘No, no, no’s’.

We reached a point a couple of years ago when I decided, I cannot honestly recall why now, to give the salon another try. Now a teenager, it was impossible to sit him on my knee as he was taller than me, so I sat opposite him and held his hands and whispered reassurances. It took my brave hairdresser to do the best she could with clippers and scissors, while her kind colleague held Joshua’s head. We would take over the salon at the end of the day and turn the music up loud and it worked. Gradually Joshua stopped complaining as he arrived at the salon and he would smile as he walked in and he complained less and he needed less holding down.

Yesterday was a triumph : the best haircut he has ever had – a real style rather than a trim – which makes him look like a real teenager.I did not need to restrain Joshua at all, I did not even sit with him, but wandered around the salon, leaving it to the team of professionals. The music was loud and Joshua enjoyed the attention of four ladies working in the salon and the mirrors and bright lights. They were a fast, efficient team and we were all done within 15 minutes and no screaming from anyone. It was a perfect instance of perseverence from us all and a kind tolerance of Joshua’s dislike and mistrust of the process. Who knows, next time he might even enjoy the experience!