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Sensory Friendly Haircuts at the “Kid’s Corner”!

Written by Maura Rabe, OTR/L

We are approaching our first “Sensory Friendly Haircut” event at Lexington Regional Health Center’s Rehabilitation Services. You may be wondering, what role does Rehabilitation Services have in providing haircuts? One of our roles as pediatric therapists is to offer support to children and collaborate with parents to improve their child’s participation in daily living activities and within the community.

Children who may demonstrate over or under-responses to sensory input are often described as having sensory processing difficulties or a sensory processing disorder. For these children, participation in daily living activities such as bathing, dressing, grooming, personal hygiene, and even haircuts can be overwhelming and distressing. According to Lucy Jane Miller PhD., OTT, author of Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (2014), sensory processing disorder is formally explained as a “neurophysiological condition in which sensory input either from the environment or from one’s body is poorly detected, modulated, or interpreted and/or which atypical responses are observed.” In addition, A. Jean Ayres, PhD, a prominent researcher in sensory processing and sensory integration, describes sensory processing disorder as a “neurological traffic jam that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly.”

When working with a child with sensory processing deficits, one of the first things a parent often comments on is the difficulty their child has while getting  a haircut. When you break apart the steps and tools involved in a haircut, the tactile, auditory and visual input, can become a terrifying experience for a sensory sensitive child. For example, the touch of the cape or the hairdresser’s fingers, the feeling of the scissors or clippers, the sound of the buzzing clippers, the added noise of the salon, the bright lights- all of these factors may have an effect on a child’s sensory processing system. The combination of auditory and tactile experiences can be too much all at once for some children. Haircuts also tend to involve a lot of unknown factors. This is where we come in to help. In addition to having an experienced hair-dresser on site, we will offer materials to prepare the child prior to the haircut. We will collaborate with the parent regarding the child’s likes and dislikes. We will adapt to the environment as needed and we will have access to available tools and techniques during the haircut. Through various techniques, our goals is to create a “sensory friendly” experience for the child.

Please consider that a “haircut” is just one daily activity a child may have difficulty with. Pediatric physical, occupational and speech therapists can offer techniques and tools to assist a child and parent with areas of difficulty in their daily tasks and roles. One of our top priorities and roles as therapists is to support children and parents in their day to day life. We are excited to be expanding our pediatric services at Lexington Regional Health Center. With our newly remodeled pediatric area, the “Kid’s Corner” and upcoming community events, such as “Sensory Friendly Haircuts”, we are here to provide innovative care to children in our community and surrounding areas.

To learn more about this and future sensory events, please contact Skyler Roemmich, DPT, or Maura Rabe, OTR/L, at Lexington Regional Health Center Rehabilitation Services at (308) 324-8333.