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Hair Brushing Tips for Children with Autism

Many children who have sensory processing challenges, especially if they are sensitive to touch, find it difficult to cope with having their hair brushed. For those diagnosed with Autism, sensitivity to varying sensory input can be especially challenging.

In order to teach your child to brush their hair, a visual schedule can help by breaking down the steps of hair brushing into smaller tasks. This will also help your child understand what is expected of them.

First, prepare your child ahead of time by letting them know when they will need to brush their hair – for example: after bath time.

Offer choices, such as what tools to use – for example: using a comb or a brush. Allow your child to pick out their own special brush at the store. You may experiment with different types of brushes and combs to see which is preferred.

Discuss hairstyle choices. Encourage your child to pick a special hair clip, bow or headband to finish the task.

When it is time for hair brushing, use a visual schedule describing each step clearly:

The steps can be individualized to your personal routine and altered based on what works best for your child. Be as specific as necessary. Introduce each task slowly.

As your child is successful, allow them more opportunities for brushing their hair independently. Keep track of how many steps your child can complete independently and and celebrate their successes!

Try using tangle-free conditioner when washing your child’s and braiding long hair before bed in order to prevent knotty hair in the morning!

Taylor Ricker, MA, BCBA is a Licensed Behavior Analyst at Beyond Boundaries.

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