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.”
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.
Jennifer Dyer has an M.S. in Communications Disorders, which served her well in her professional career as a speech-language pathologist. Never did she imagine that her education and career were God’s way of preparing her to be a mom to her own daughter with autism. Today, she enjoys reaching out to other families who face similar diagnoses. As a cancer survivor, carpet-cleaning veteran, and originator of the “Messy House Ministry,” Jennifer feels blessed to share joy, peace, and humor with others facing life’s challenges. She is mom to two beautiful daughters and is thankful to be raising them, serving other families with unique needs, and using her gift of writing and speaking to minister to others. Jennifer is also the author of a youth fiction book series and is trusting God with His timing on publication. Jennifer has been a mom for 11 years. She and Brandon have been married for 13 years.