My son Harry is five years old. He has autism. Today I sent him to school wearing a hair band.
Research suggests that at least three quarters of people on the autism spectrum have some sort of sensory processing disorder. My son is one of those. He can not tolerate having his hair cut. He hates everything about it from the noise of the scissors close to his ears to the feel of the hair on his skin.
We have tried multiple ways to make hair cutting easier for him. We’ve tried clippers even though he doesn’t like anything that vibrates (because we thought he may tolerate it better if it was over quicker) but trying the clippers was a huge mistake. He is now afraid of them and will back out of the room as soon as he sees them.
We’ve taken him to a professional hair dressers where they have lollies to suck on and Thomas trains to sit in but even that didn’t placate him. Even when we tried the second time and took his tablet along so that he could watch his favourite Thomas episode. So we tried the lolly pop and tablet trick at home instead and asked my sister to come round (who is a hairdresser and who he knows) and we got her to cut his dads hair first so that he could see that it wasn’t scary. Then I sat him on my lap so that he knew I was right there beside him but as soon as he heard the scissors he started to scream and lash out at me but we had started so we had to finish and we were all left traumatised.
Hair cuts with my son have always been a traumatic affair for everyone involved, from his very first hair cut when he was 18 months old. After his last hair cut back in September, I vowed never to put him through it again, and I have stuck by my word even when people have commented on how badly he needs his hair cut, and there have been many comments like that of late. I’ve even had people tell me I should just pin him down.
I’m ashamed to admit that I have held him down in the past while he thrashed against me and cried. This was before we knew for sure he had autism. Now that he has been officially diagnosed and I have researched how autism can impact on a persons life, I refuse to put him through it again. Until he comes to me himself and asks for his hair cut, its just not happening.
This does of course leave us with the small problem of his hair getting long enough to be constantly in his eyes and sticking to his face when he’s hot. It’s also having an impact on him at school because he has to keep flicking his hair out of his eyes so he can see while doing his school work. So I googled boys with hair bands (like you do) and a load of images of celebrities wearing hair bands popped up including David Beckham and Leonardo Dicaprio and I thought well if it’s good enough for them…….
Part of Harry’s autism means that he doesn’t always understand social cues and doesn’t understand that “fluffy pink things and hair bands are for girls”. He likes what he likes and is always asking to wear his sisters hair bands so I went on line and ordered him some thin plain sporty ones because why the hell not?
Yes I run the risk of my son being bullied for wearing a hair band but the truth is it wouldn’t make any difference to Harry if he did get teased and called a girl anyway. He would just think it was a game and besides there are certain people in this world who can pull off being different and Harry is one of them, but even though he is so loved and accepted by all of his peers, as I dropped him off at school I did hear one of his class mates say, “Why does Harry look like a girl?”. It made me a little sad and I did wonder if I’d done the right thing but as I looked back at my son and saw his beaming smile I realised that he didn’t give a damn and therefore neither did I. I just hope that his teacher (who was standing nearby) would have taken that opportunity to explain that being different is ok.
Athough I realise that Harry may become more susceptible to bullying as he and his peers get older it’s my job to teach him to embrace his differences. If he wants to boycott hair cuts, grow his hair out and wear a hair band then good for him. In my opinion we should all be a little like Harry and not be afraid to be ourselves. If everybody on the planet embraced their differences there would be less judgement and maybe this world would be a better place.