If your child has any sort of sensory issues, you probably shuddered when you saw “haircut.” You know how hard that is.

For Rachel, with severe autism, apraxia, and a host of sensory issues, a haircut means sneaking up on her with scissors or begging her to let me cut just a little bit. Forget taking her somewhere.

For others, like my friend Helen*, taking her little one Maddy* to get a haircut means some tears and fears, but it is doable, especially if super-hero daddy comes along for the fun.

Yesterday, dad had the day off, so the trio headed to the hair salon. Maddy is verbal, although she struggles with apraxia and multiple sensory issues, including severe food texture aversion.

Sadly, instead of seeing someone they knew, a new woman was assigned to cut Maddy’s hair.

“You would think mommy would have bothered to comb the knots out of your hair before coming here,” the lady said.

Helen shrank, but forced her shoulders back and looked at the lady in the mirror. “She has severe sensory issues. I did my best.”

“Really…”

Helen’s stomach turned. Her throat tightened. This lady had never met either of them. Who was she to make judgments? What did she even know about sensory issues? Was she there last night during dinner when it took 30 minutes just to get Maddy to take a bite of peaches? How about this morning when she and her husband got an Olympic workout just trying to brush Maddy’s teeth?

Helen’s mind whirled through angry retorts. But what was the point of saying any of this to the hair lady? Like she would care.

“And look at those nails. Why doesn’t anyone bother to trim them?” the … hair lady said.

This will be over in just a minute… Helen pressed her nails into the palm of her hands to block out the lady’s snarky remarks.

Her mind screamed, You are such an arrogant jerk! But she didn’t say it out loud. The lady had scissors near Maddy’s head, after all.

Still, her eyes stung with unshed tears. She would NOT let them fall, would not give this judgmental person the satisfaction of knowing her words cut her insides more efficiently than her scissors sliced through hair.

It wasn’t fair. Motherhood wasn’t supposed to be like this. Maddy suffered so much. Would she understand the lady? Would it hurt her feelings? And worse, would this hair cutting person call CPS and report some sort of neglect?

Helen glanced around the salon. Happy parents and children loomed in every seat, yakking away with each other. She and Maddy were so alone. Sometimes it felt as though they were stranded on another planet, the only of their species, watching life take place around them, but not with them.

This was a mistake. Obviously, they would never, ever set foot in this place again. Once hubby’s raise goes through, maybe we can go to a better place and see the same person…

I wrote this after talking to “Helen” recently. The emotions I wrote are what I feel so often. I really do feel like a foreigner trapped in an isolated life sometimes. Even though I know there are others with the same struggles, it is so easy to feel isolated and alone. And CPS has been a recurring nightmare of mine. From massive tangles to stripping naked, we have fought through so many sensory issues and been subjected to cruel remarks by people who think insulting someone is a great way to be helpful…

How about you? Have you felt this way?

*I changed their names.

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12 Comments

  1. I have a son with aspergers and if someone has the nerve to say something like that to me about how i take care of my child they get to hear the whole story! I do it nicely but some people just dont get it. We try to minimize the meltdowns.

    1. Thanks for sharing! I admire you for being open and honest. I think that is a key to understanding and educating others. Yay for you, Cindy!

  2. I’m with Cindy. If they have the comments, they get to hear the story. It’s sad, but I am very used to dealing with people who do not understand.

  3. my son is on the autism spectrum and with sensory processing difficulties. trimming nails and haircuts were a NIGHTMARE… you can’t even imagine. what has worked WONDERS for haircuts is to give him a handheld timer and tell him it will be all done in 8 minutes. then i run the clippers over his head as quickly and gently as possible and usually get done before the beeping starts. he also knows he gets to get right into the bath tub and get all that scratchy hair off. we are SO proud of him… he grips onto that timer and keeps it together!! as far as nail trimming, he’s taking to biting his fingernails, so it’s now just his toenails, but they are so quick it’s not such an ordeal.

  4. Rebecca in SC says:

    My son with autism attended his brother’s Beta Club ceremony. We all sat together on gym bleachers at this after school event. It was long, uncomfortably warm and tiring for everyone. Ryan was doing extremely well considering the circumstances. He did begin to sigh/breathe heavy. This lady turned around and lit into me about my son. She was so incredibly rude! I looked her square in the eyes and said “He HAS autism and I would appreciate your understanding!” I do not enjoy confrontation but my son was not being even remotely disruptive compared to the cell phones ringing, ADULTS talking aloud and people leaving once their child’s name was read.
    Haircuts were horrible in the beginning! I usually just put him(toddler age) in his highchair and had someone help hold his hands. He screamed and screamed but at least we got the hair out of his eyes – also a sensory issue that bugs him. One place I took him the girl barely tried to do anything, got frustrated with him and just said she wasn’t going to risk getting herself cut. We have found a few places that are easier to deal with.

    1. Thanks for sharing that! I do agree with you that there are many things more disruptive than sighing. Wow! The other day someone was snarky to Rachel and I could not help myself. I told the lady in a snarky voice of my own that she had autism. I prayed about it later and asked the Lord to help me to share in love because I was not feeling so loving toward that lady. I wanted her to feel ashamed of herself for being hateful. Ahh…so much to learn!

  5. Nell Kirk says:

    What a jerk of a hairdresser. She needs therapy. Good use of description to show the emotions of a parent in these circumstances. I can’t help but think what the child was picking up from this interaction.

    Just a FYI. Check out this paragraph near the end. I had a hard time understanding what you meant.
    “Helen glanced around the salon. … the only of their species.”

    1. Well, sometimes it is so easy to assume others are jerks, but the reality is we are all humans. Humanity has a way of rearing its head all the time, doesn’t it? I’ve done my share of trying to use my daughter’s autism as a way of shaming others. I’m not sure if I’m being the bigger person or not when I do that. Life is not for wimps, is it? LOL!
      Thanks for the tip on the paragraph, Mom. 🙂

  6. We have a son with autism & sensory issues too, and haircuts were also very difficult…until we brought along an iPad and let him watch his favorite movie – Cars 2. The iPad is a great tool for him and there are so many wonderful apps for him to learn.

    Trust me, invest in an iPad. It is worth every penny.

    1. We LOVE the iPad too! All the grandparents went in together to buy the iPAd and software for Rachel. A gift from the Lord through them. Good mention, Ben!