Hair: Sensory Issues with Washing, Cutting and Brushing

Those with Sensory difference can have problems when it comes to touch, this can be really uncomfortable and sometimes very painful causing the individual to have a “meltdown.” In some situations this really cannot be avoided completely especially when it comes to taking care of their hygiene including their hair. Washing, brushing and cutting the hair can be a traumatic experience for the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder – so what can be done to help?man having hair shaved

Consider how Washing, Brushing and Cutting Affects them as an Individual

It is important to remember that with Sensory Processing Disorder (or Sensory difficulties for a person who has Autism) that everyone is an individual and will be affected differently – there’s not a one size fits all. You need to think about what it is that is causing them not to want their hair washed, cut or brushed – what is it about it making them feel distressed? If you can talk to them try to find out but if not you will just have to try different methods to eliminate the possible causes. For example, I know my oldest son with Asperger’s syndrome dislikes his hair being cut so much that he lets it grow for example, whereas I feel like pulling my hair out of the socket (and do often cut quite a bit off myself – this is called trichtomania and can be a sign of anxiety) because it just hurts so much. man having hair cutRemember that problems could be due to any of the senses so think about the situation in terms of them all:

The Environment where having their hair Washed, Brushed or Cut

Like most things when it comes to Sensory Processing the environment the individual is in can make such a difference. Consider the effect of noise, visuals, smells etc on them as well as what the textures are around them and how they are placed (for consideration on proprioception and vestibular senses). Make sure they are familiar with where they are having their hair done and are happy with it before attempting doing anything to the hair. Are they happier standing, sitting – or possibly even lying!? What have they got to look at? Are they content with just what is in the environment or would they benefit from being distracted by a television, games console, iPad, etc? Or maybe it is too much and they need sunglasses or to relax with an eye patch to lessen the visual overload. Is the lighting right? Would they benefit from coloured lights – or more or less lighting? Is there too much noise? Can they wear noise-reducing headphones to cancel it out? Or not enough noise? Could they have a radio on, or listen to music through some headphones? Is it the smell – is there a certain air freshener or products being used that they do not like?empty hair dressers chair and lightYou may need to slowly build up their compliance with going into this room (for example in a hairdressers); start by letting them go in and leave straight away, building up their tolerance for staying there. Take a look at different places and see which is the most suitable – some have cars children can sit in, or you may find a hairdresser who is very patient. When our oldest son with Asperger’s syndrome was small we found a hairdressers who would let him come back over a number of visits because he got so distressed trying to do it in one sitting. Also try to take with you things that will help them feel relaxed. Alternatively see if someone will come out to your home.

Things to consider to help the Individual with Sensory Processing when having their hair Brushed, Washed, or Cut

Wherever it is that the individual with Sensory Processing has their hair done there are some things that may be worth trying to think about whether they will make it easier for them:

  • Can they have advance warnings – with visual aids, social stories, videos, or watching others first? Do they know how long it will take? Have they a visual timer to help with this? As above can they have it done over several sittings?
  • Can they be distracted whilst someone is doing their hair (with a fidget toy, stress ball, iPad, etc)? Do they prefer to be in control and do it themselves (washing and brushing) – and would they benefit from a mirror (this may also be helpful if someone else is doing it too)? Or is it impossible and therefore would trying to do it whilst they sleep be a last resort option?mother and children around an ipad
  • Are they comfortable with the feel of a towel/shawl around their shoulders whilst having their hair done? Or would they benefit from a weighted lap-pad or a kick-band around the bottom of the chair whilst they have to sit?
  • Is the temperature of the water right? Are you trying to wash their hair forwards or backwards over a sink? Using a shower head or lying in a bath? Is a water spray bottle an option – or is the feel on their face unpleasant?
  • Obviously ideally when trying to brush the hair then clean hair is going to be easier, but this is not always possible. Is using dry shampoo possible? Consider the smells of the products and whether to use shampoo, conditioner or both. It may be a good idea to use leave in conditioner, Aragon oil, coconut oil, or detangler spray to make the hair easier to brush, and comb from the bottom in small sections, slowly going up to the roots. Afterwards consider tying the hair back and if possible plaiting it to avoid any further knots.
  • Different people will touch the hair/have a different pressure than others, as will different brushes and combs – can this be adjusted to try to find the right force for them? I know my teenager likes the feel of the nitty gritty comb and will only use that – so really experiment! Of course there’s a range of soft and hard brushes, combs with different spaces between the teeth and detangler brushes.open scissors
  • Do they dislike noises – so would prefer scissors over clippers? Or are they worried that their ears may be nipped? Do they need a warning when it will be noisy? And is it better to towel dry or use a hairdryer?
  • When cutting their hair consider swaddling. Our son was physically sick when the lose hair touched his skin and so a change of clothes may be a good idea.

 

Do you have any other problems or solutions when it comes to sensory issues and washing, cutting and brushing hair – please add them in the comments below. I would also love to hear if any of this has been beneficial to you.

 

Other Posts of Interest:

Hair Washing & JOHNSON’S Baby Easy-Rinse Foaming Shampoo Review

 

Brushing Teeth & Sensory Processing Disorder

National Autistic Society: Preparing for a visit to the Hairdressers

Sensory Help in the Bathroom

When we redesigned our bathroom we had to really stop and think about our youngest son’s disability. We took him along to make sure he approved of the colour scheme and had some real issues adjusting him to a square toilet. Our son’s needs are sensory as he has sensory processing disorder and rather individual to him. More physical needs can affect not just the disabled but the elderly too so it is useful to find solutions for their bathroom.

Sensory Help in the Bathroom

I felt mindfulness really helped me understand what the Sensory Seeker needed in the bathroom. I found that even the slightest tilt of my head under the shower can make the noises sound very different. This gave me an insight into the fact that even small changes can make a big sensory difference.Sensory Help in the Bathroom Sensory Processing Disorder is different for each individual and it can be every time they enter the bathroom, depending on their sensory diet that day. Knowing if The Sensory Seeker would be effected by colours, smells, touch or temperature etc are very important factors in encouraging him into the bathroom, and then using the products he needs when in there (see also my posts about brushing his teeth and washing his hair).Brushing Teeth & Sensory Processing Disorder

I previously wrote about Sensory Processing and Bathtime problems – but have since discovered additional solutions you can have added into a bath that may help with sensory issues such as Chromotherapy and Echo. Chromotherapy is based on light therapy and uses a visible spectrum of colours which help the body harmonise the emotional, spiritual and physical well-being. The colours can be fixed or run through a cycle of seven. Not only is this useful is you have a visually sensory seeker but it also encourages the mind and body to relax. Whilst Echo is a sound therapy which utilises sounds and music to create a relaxing environment. It works wirelessly from a music player using Bluetooth technology, with simple volume controls at the fingertips of the user. Again great for the auditory sensory seeker but also relaxing for mind and body.

Do you have any other helpful hints when it comes to the bathroom?

 

Sensory Processing Disorder Dreams and Emotions

Sensory Processing Disorder and Struggling with Emotions

Individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder and/or Autistic Spectrum Condition are very likely to struggle with their emotions. Not only explaining them but understanding them in the first place. If you do not know how they are feeling that it is really hard to try and help. Emotional regulation is really important to help avoid meltdowns. Once the individual is able to identify them themselves they can then begin to self-regulate and take control of their sensory under and overloads.sensory emotions

How those with Sensory Processing Disorder may Struggle with Emotions

The individual with Sensory Processing Disorder or Autism may try and mirror other’s emotions – so if someone else is hurt they feel it too. They may feel upset if someone else is punished when they do not feel that the punishment was justified and have a sense of righteousness. Or they may become angry if someone is doing something they do not like – even if that is tickling them or being too loud.unhappy child

Helping those with Sensory Processing Disorder cope with Emotions

To help them better understand their feelings they need to be reassured that it is okay to have them, and then tell them what each one is called as they experience it. Offer reassurance and calming techniques (rubbing their back, firm hugs, music, lights, movement or a weighted blanket for example). It may help to have emotions printed on face picture cards so that they can see what they are feeling. These will also help aid the individual to communicate how they are feeling (especially good if they are feeling unwell). You may find it helps to have somewhere to put their problem (such as into a Worry Eater).sensory emotion regulation

Sensory Processing Disorder Dreams and Emotions

A good way to identify a child’s emotions is through that of their dreams. Dreams are about the self and can be symbolic or real. This can be confusing for anyone but particular those with Sensory Processing Disorder and/or Autism. They could be what prevents them from trying to sleep and/or waking them up in the night. If you can get them to talk to you about what happens in their dreams it may help to unravel how they are coping emotionally. Again using the visual aids may help with this process as you talk things through.

Ian Wallace, a well-known expert in the field of Dreams talks about children’s dreams interpreted in the following video:


in collaboration with Adjustable beds

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder

You know that feeling of getting back to your own bed – that nowhere else feels just quite right? It is the right temperature, the size of the bed (being just right for the position you want to be in), the feel of the sheets, blankets and pillows as well as the hardness of the mattress and maybe even the smell of the room. When you are away it is these little things that may mean you find it difficult to sleep – possibly even making you feel irritable. This is just a small insight into what it may be like for someone with Sensory Processing Disorder to get to sleep – even in their own room. When The Sensory Seeker struggles with sleep I try to consider each and every one of the senses and try to eliminate things that may be keeping him awake. The main problem is he may not even know what it is – so cannot really communicate what the problem is.trying to sleep

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Temperature is wrong

We know what it is like trying to sleep when it is too hot – or even too cold. But generally we are able to adjust this – turn on a fan, grab an extra blanket, wear more or less clothes. The individual with Sensory Processing Disorder may either not realise that this is the sense causing the problem, or be able to take action, or possibly it could cause more problems (eg the fan interferes with the noise sense, the extra blanket the touch sense and so on). I think it is important to also understand that just because you think it is getting cold at night now may not be how they are feeling – we are all different after all. You may really need to just experiment with fans, heaters, layers of clothing//blankets etc – and just keep listening to the individual with SPD (not just their words but how they react). It may change every night. They may be asking for water and you may think it is a distraction, but they could genuinely be too hot. Be careful not to give them too much to drink at night that results in a problem with bedwetting though!

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Touch is wrong

Do you have to sleep with a blanket touching you even though you are boiling hot? Trying to sleep when things do not feel right is probably the problem we can relate to the most. Again this is about experimentation and listening to the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder until the right combinations of touch are found: A technique called Brushing may help before bed or using weighted blankets (although they are controversial as to whether they could be taken off in an emergency okay). Try different nightwear (or without), blankets, pillows – even think about the air! For example is that fan blowing on them? This could be something they like or dislike! You may need to think about the position of the fan – is it blowing from above or to the side, can you move it? How hard is the bed? Could you put a blanket underneath the sheet to make it softer?sleeping in leaves

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Smell is wrong

I think smell is hugely neglected when it comes to considering how to help in general  but it can be just as much of an annoyance as the other senses. Before even thinking about trying to get to sleep I make sure that I open the windows in the day to allow fresh air in (and shut them at night to keep the noise out). For our Sensory Seeker what works is keeping a fresh smell (and sometimes using air fresheners). Again you really need to just try and smell the room, and work with the individual adjusting things that MAY (or may not) be the problem until you hit on the perfect combination (which can then just as easily change the next night).

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Light is wrong

Whether it is having the room dark or light which helps them to sleep, I think that it is one of the easier things to control. If the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder wants light there are all manner of different lights, designs, colours, shapes and sizes on the market to meet each of their individual needs, and allowing them to be positioned where they need to be. Of course there are even ones to meet any obsessions they have too.

sensory lightsThe Sensory Seeker says that he is afraid of the dark however (possibly just due to his age); that monsters are going to get him. Trouble is he is really sensitive to light and it wakes him up (yay for winter on its way!). To get around this we have a blackout blind and have positioned his bed away from the window. If this had not of worked we were going to try a sleep mask (which he would have liked as he likes the sense of touch). However, also consider whether they will be trying to get out of bed whilst still wearing the mask – my husband worried that if we got one then The Sensory Seeker half asleep would try to go to the toilet in the night without removing the mask and fall down the stairs. We also got him a Worry Eater to which we have told him will eat his anxieties and protect him from danger.

Of course you also need to take into account other visual factors such as the colour of the room, how cluttered it is with things to see, etc.

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Noise level is wrong

I like it quiet when I am trying to sleep in bed and would rather have a window shut on a hot day than hear the sound of a dog barking or a car alarm going off. Your child may be able to sleep with ear defenders or ear plugs if the noise is too loud. If you are really lucky you could sound proof the room. But not everyone wants quiet whilst they try to get to sleep or are sleeping – and some kind of radio may help with this – or reading/singing to them until they fall asleep. Or leave some white noise – like a vacuum on for them. In fact our own Sensory Seeker has been known to listen to Yoga Nidra to help get to sleep (this helps switch the brain between the nervous systems as well as providing him with the noise input he needs).

Also you need to think about body position – I said above I like quiet when trying to sleep in bed because I know if I am sitting up in a moving car I actually find it easier to sleep if the music is on (when I am a passenger I made add). This is just an example how things you may think you have found the answer to for one of the senses can change when you consider another.

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Taste is wrong

This goes back to what happens before bed – I guess how long before they go that they brush their teeth. We find allowing The Sensory Seeker to brush his teeth and get ready for bed a while before actually going to bed helps – and this may be to do with the fact that he is not distracted by the taste of the toothpaste flavour when trying to go to sleep. I know it sounds silly but it really is important just to focus on each sense and really have a good think about what could be stopping them.

Of course it could be that the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder you are trying to get to sleep is just a human being – and we all struggle or don’t want to go to sleep sometimes do we?! Especially if they are a child – I remember trying to stay awake all night with my sister, or they could be excited/anxious. Give them plenty of time to talk – however hard they find expressing their feelings.

 

Written in Partnership with The Lighting Superstore

Carex Fun Edition Love Hearts Review by The Sensory Seeker

When it comes to Sensory Processing Disorder you really do have to consider all of the senses. And wen it comes to hygiene the biggest obstacle we have to overcome is smell – because The Sensory Seeker is really sensitive to different ones, and if they are not right he will refuse to use whatever it is or want to escape from it (and there’s no point in forcing him because this just raises his anxiety levels and brings on a meltdown – or what appears to be a tantrum!). Therefore finding the right products for the bathroom have been a real game changer for helping him to keep clean. There are some things he is more particular about than others, or that he just likes more than the rest. Carex Strawberry Laces are one of the products he loves – so how would he feel about trying the new Carex Fun Edition Love Hearts?
Carex Fun Edition Love Hearts Review by The Sensory Seeker

Sensory Seeker and Carex Fun Edition Love Hearts

It always was going to be a tough competition as the Love Hearts went up against the Strawberry Laces. Our Sensory Seeker loves Strawberry Laces Hand Wash by Cussons Carex so much so that we have had to start just topping up the empty bottle a bit at a time, or he just uses it all. Although it was quite funny the time he told me to smell his armpits as he had even used it there! When asked to try the new Love Hearts I felt unsure of how well he would make the change.

Just like the Strawberry Laces the Love Hearts Hand Wash smells just like the sweets – it really is the perfect solution for encouraging our son to wash his hands. I think even the most reluctant of hand washers would want this smell on their hands. It effectively removes dirt and kills 99.9% of bacteria. It is dermatologically tested by experts and contains a special blend of moisturisers which helps to keep the skin soft. It certainly was a winner in our house with The Sensory Seeker (and well the whole family).

RRP £1.80Carex Fun Edition Love Hearts Review by The Sensory Seeker

You may also be interested in the following previous posts:

 

I received a free bottle of Carex Love Hearts for purposes of review. All words and opinions are honest and my own. I have not received any financial compensation.