Posted in Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome, Feeding, Personal Hygiene, Toileting, Speech and Occupational Therapy

Blog #18~ A Cut Above The Rest

Blog #18~ A Cut Above The Rest

Haircuts are no fun with Nick, period.

I can still remember the first time they started to bother him.  It was right before we moved to California in 1998.  He was around four years old. I took him in on a Sunday morning hoping the church goers would be worshipping and the salon would be empty.  We walked in and there was only one lady who sat relaxed in her chair and getting a perm.  I sat him on my lap and as soon as the scissors came out, he began squirming and yelling.  Next thing you know he set off the car remote I had put in my pocket.  I couldn’t get out of the salon quick enough. I slapped a twenty down on the counter and got the hell out of there.  That was one of the last professional haircuts he ever got.

Nick’s first haircut in 1996, this one went well……

Nick the early years. His hair was so soft and silky…..

It got to the point where we decided to get some clippers and just give him a home haircut.  Nick’s new look became the buzz cut.

Sargent Nick ready to report for duty……

The older he got, the stronger Nick became. Nick has Down syndrome and autism.  His behaviors became more challenging as he got older. He started putting up a big fight.  In fact, if you ever wondered why his tooth is chipped it was from him flailing his body and hitting his face to the floor during a haircut.  Al and I began to dread them as much as Nick did.  Bribes, oh I mean rewards such as a Sprite and a shower didn’t seem to help either.  He began to pitch even bigger fits and we had no choice but to pin him down.  The worst haircut was sitting on the floor of the bathroom with my legs around him and my arms holding his in a basket hold. We were covered with sweat and his fallen hair felt like needles jabbing at our skin. Nick flailed and then peed all over the floor.  We sat there in a puddle of warm urine and fallen hair sticking to us.  Worst yet, we were only half done.  Picture this,  a buzz cut front in the front and mullet in the back.

As I mentioned earlier the bigger the fight, the more traumatized he became (and the longer it took him to de-escalate).  We would finish these sessions and he would be shaking, red faced with tears streaming down his cheeks.  It broke my heart. 😦

As Nick got into his teen years, I worried that we were going to have to go to extreme measures.  Would getting a straitjacket be out of line? 😉    Then, there was another area of hair removal to be addressed. He was starting to grow facial hair! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!

Now it was already impossible to give him haircuts and clipping his toenails was no walk in the park either.  (I don’t know what it is but I swear that extra 21st chromosome called Trisomy 21 is the cause of kids like Nick having really tough toenails.  I usually wait until after a long shower so that the nails are a little bit supple.  How could we possibly get a razor to his face.  Luckily I had a good team of teachers and aides in high school who offered both visual supports and tips to tackle this next hurdle.

I have to give a lot of credit to Rob Trefil, Nick’s aide in high school.  He was able to get Nick to tolerate an electric razor and actually get in there at his chin and moustache area.  We found the roller top razor worked much better than the rotary one.

Mr. T rocks…..

Look at big guy shaving……

He is in the shaving zone…..

Last weekend, we geared up for another haircut session.  I was worried because we had waited too long and his mop was out of control.  It was going to be like cutting the lawn two weeks too late.

Pre-haircut Nick, can you say scrappy do? 

To my surprise, Nick did outstanding.  In fact, it was the easiest haircut we had ever given him. He didn’t cry or get too upset at all. Hallelujah 🙂

Post haircut Nick….. *A cut above the rest!

I think a couple of things have happened to tone down the level of anxiety and how he tolerates haircuts.  Puberty has passed along with the severe aggressive meltdowns.  I see a maturity about him now that he is a young adult.  As parents, we have learned more about behavior management and use visuals to guide him through the process. The other thing we changed was to cut his hair first thing in the morning before he has been bombarded with sensory overload.  Finally, investing in a good pair of clippers makes the cuts go smoother. Nick even helps some with it.  I am so glad the days of holding him down in a basket hold and shearing him are gone.  That is what’s in my noggin, until next Monday may everyday be a good hair day!

~Teresa

*A cut above the rest…. It is originated from the saying “you and I are cut from the same cloth” (being the fabric of life) and that the cloth, from which you were cut… was or superior quality.

 

Author:

Teresa is the mother of two boys. Her youngest son, Nick is 23 years old and has special needs including Down syndrome, autism and verbal apraxia. She is a parent advocate, speaker and writer who is currently working on the memoir of raising her son, Nick. You can follow Nick world on our Facebook page and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism. Find Nick on Instagram@ #nickdsaustism, Twitter @tjunnerstall.

10 thoughts on “Blog #18~ A Cut Above The Rest

  1. T~ This made me smile today thank you, especially the photo with you and your BIG hair. Nick is lookin good with the crew cut, low maintenance too!

  2. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my buddy and be thankful for all of the things your family has taught me about living to enjoy every moment!

  3. I just saw this post as I was looking up info on shaving my special needs son’s face. I don’t know if this will ever make it back to you but you just described our life exactly concerning his haircuts. Thank you for sending out this experience to te world because i truly feel (or felt) that we were the only ones that had to go through this. I know the feeling of a broken heart as you’re holding your child down while he’s fighting and crying. You have given me hope that it may get easier as he gets older. For this glimmer of light, I can’t thank you enough.

    1. Glad you found the post to be both helpful and encouraging. It’s not easy this road we travel but it does get better as they our kids mature. Thank you for reading and your feedback. Hang in there. 🙂

  4. This was so great! My little guy is fifteen and also has Down syndrome and autism. I used to have to cut his hair and nails while he was sleeping. Luckily we found a fantastic hair dresser who was very very patient with Dale, and now we go for a haircut every two months – it is so great! We worked through what works and what doesn’t, and most of the time Dale does very well! Shaving is a whole new ballpark we are just starting to tackle. Thank you for the razor suggestion – I am terrified of the shaving obstacle! My husband and I have tried one of those little groomer tools, and they just throw Dale into a nasty meltdown. Dale has very very blonde hair, so I don’t think he will have to shave as much as someone with course dark hair, but he definitely has fuzz on his chin and upper lip that needs attention! Wish us luck!

    And I agree – Dale has the strongest nails and toenails of anyone I’ve ever seen!!!

    Have a great Day and thank you for writing about life with your beautiful boy! He is very very handsome!!!!

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