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5 Things I Want My Hairdresser to Know as an Autistic Adult

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Not many people think of adults having trouble with haircuts. As an autistic adult, I don’t like my hair being cut because of sensory issues and the anxiety of a change happening to my current hairstyle. Everyone has had a bad haircut at some point, but being on the spectrum, a drastic change to my hair can send me into a meltdown. However, it is necessary to trim and cut my hair to keep it healthy.

When I get my haircut, I usually go to the same hair salon and hairstylist. This takes away the anxiety of someone new touching me. My hair is really long mostly because I don’t like when a stranger cuts my hair. I usually only trim my hair about twice a year. I prefer to see the same person but that’s not always the way things go. I just recently went to get my haircut because my hair really needed to be shaped better and cut off the dead ends. The hairdresser that usually cuts my hair was no longer there, so I had to choose another person. I realized that I had to speak up again to a new hairdresser and let them know I was autistic. In sharing I was autistic, I noticed that there were several things I wish they understood.

1. I’m not usually very talkative while getting my hair done.

When I go to the salon, I notice how many people will talk to their hairstylists. They gossip, share stories and talk about their day. When I get my haircut, I usually don’t engage in a lot of conversation unless it has to do with my hair. It’s hard for me to talk to someone, especially someone I don’t know. This can lead to hairdressers thinking I’m being rude or I’m unhappy. This is not the case. I just need time to adjust to the situation and feel comfortable with a new person.

2. Being touched can be painful because of autism and sensory sensitivities.

I’ve noticed that many hairstylists massage your scalp when they are washing hair. I don’t like my scalp massaged. I find it to be painful and too personal. I find it better if I ask my hairdresser to not massage my scalp as soon as I get in the chair instead of waiting until they start washing my hair.

3. I will probably stim while getting a haircut.

It’s hard for me to sit still during haircuts because I have a lot of anxiety or I’m excited, so I stim to help release that tension. Sometimes hairstylists will think that it’s because I’m upset or something is wrong, but it’s really just me trying to regulate myself.

4. It can be hard to communicate what I want to be done with my hair.

Communicating can be tough with strangers. I don’t always feel like I’m getting the point across or that I’m being heard. Sometimes I will write down what I plan to say in certain situations. If I can, I try to bring someone else with me that I trust when I get my haircut. I will sometimes bring photos of how I’d like my hair, or I will show previous photos of myself when I liked a certain haircut.

5. Tell me what you are going to do before you do it.

When someone is touching me, it’s important that they tell me beforehand what they are going to do. This can help me prepare so the sensation doesn’t overwhelm or startle me.

It’s important to be able to have a hairdresser that I can trust. Being able to be with someone who is understanding of my autism can help relieve the anxiety of getting my haircut.

Originally published: February 23, 2022
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