Hair Brushing For Children with Autism

When performing ordinary activities like hair brushing, autism can present unique challenges. Children with autism typically suffer from a condition known as sensory processing disorder. Many personal care tasks like brushing their teeth and brushing their hair can be difficult to tolerate, which can cause a personal care deficit. Approaching this intolerance must be done on an individual basis and should be customized with the individual’s sensitivities in mind.
For those who are sensitive to touch, using a specialized hairbrush for autism may provide a more comfortable experience for both parent and child. The concept of hair brushing should be approached by someone with an understanding of the individual’s limitations and how they feel about sensations associated with hair brushing, as autism can make common experiences uncomfortable. With time and practice, hair brushing can become a pleasant experience for everyone involved. 

Sensory Reasons for Hair Struggles:

  • Your vestibular system controls your body’s sense of balance and motion, so some kids are sensitive to having their head tilted backward or forward for rinsing when having their hair washed. 
  • Your child may be sensitive to the smell of the hair products you are using on them, making the feeling of brushing with autism unpleasant.
  • Many children with sensory issues have very sensitive scalps or are sensitive to touch in general from hands, brushes or combs, and even water.
  • Autism washing hair: Water on their face, in their eyes, or having shampoo get in their eyes can be difficult for all kids, not just those with autism.
  • Some kids struggle with the sound of the clippers at the hairdresser or the sound of the water in a shower. Using health products for autism such as a hairbrush for autism or a silent hair cutter comb can make a big difference.

    Toddler Hair Brush: Tips for Managing Hair Care and Sensory Needs:

    • Sensory Issues with hair washing - Determine the root cause. Talk to your child about hair brushing autism triggers and see if you can determine what the biggest sensory issues are. 
    • Establish a routine and an approach: Children with a sensory processing disorder depend on a well-developed, reliable routine. Your child should have their hair brushed twice each day, preferably at the same times each day.
    • My child refuses to comb hair: Massage their scalp before you begin brushing their hair. This will help them build tolerance for having their hair touched and having a hairbrush running through their hair.
    • When you brush their hair, apply firm, steady pressure.

      How to Brush Your Child’s Hair: 

      Here are some tips on how to slowly integrate positive hair brushing with autism into your child's routine. 

      • When you’re brushing your child’s hair, hold onto a strip of hair above any tangle so that your child doesn’t feel the tugging as you pull the tangle loose. Distracting them while you do this is a great way to help you manage long hair. 
      • What is the best hair brush for sensory issues? Use a hairbrush for autism that has soft bristles. The bristles should have a rounded head to make the experience more comfortable.
      • If your child has knots in their hair, use a detangling spray. This will help with a lot of the discomfort of knots being combed out.
      • Use a firm, downward motion when you’re brushing autistic children’s hair. Avoid using light strokes because it causes a different sensation than firm brushing. 
      • If your child has difficulty with using a brush, detangle their hair with your fingers. 
      • Encourage your child to brush their hair first.

      As you’re teaching your child to enjoy having their hair brushed, you should start out slowly. Don’t overwhelm your child by forcing them to sit longer than they feel comfortable, as this will cause them to avoid your daily routine or become agitated. Over time, your child will become accustomed to hair brushing and autism won’t stand in the way of them getting more comfortable with their overall personal routine. Using autism supplies instead of standard products goes a long way in helping your child develop positive habits, so shop Bright Autism today!

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      1 comment

      • I read the article about hairbrushing but any tips please on african american hair.My daughter is biracial. My 5 year old has autism and tried everything to tolerate hairbrushing. Impossible! Aba therapy and her other therapies didn’t help either. Her hair has knots and the hairbrush therapy said to use pulls her hair. She screams so much i do as little as possible so dont upset her worse. Please advice!?

        Rhonda Reavis

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