It's common for kids with sensory integration or autism spectrum issues to be afraid of haircuts. When you think about it, it's a pretty rational fear--a stranger straps you into a chair, wets your head, comes at you with scissors--but for kids on the spectrum even the sound of those scissors (or God forbid the electric trimmer) can send them over the edge into a flailing, wailing meltdown.
Our local shop is tricked out with toys, lollipops, even a Thomas train table to soothe the reluctant guest. The first time I brought Isaac he was about a year old, and the Russian woman at the front took a look at him, then me, and asked: "You want regular boy haircut?" Honestly, I had never even thought about it. What are the options, I wondered? Mohawk? Mullet? Bowl cut? "Sure," I answered. "Regular boy haircut." We went home in one piece: he with a new toy train, me with a slightly damp envelope containing a few wisps of his baby hair to keep as a memento.
Isaac withstood the first few haircuts pretty well. He let himself be distracted by one or two of the toys and didn't seem to mind the process much. Then, sometime around his second birthday, I brought him in but wasn't able to stop the haircutter before she spritzed him with water. It was all downhill from there: screaming, crying, hitting, falling to the floor--if you're reading this, you've probably been there. The woman did the best she could with a living, breathing, screaming target. He went home that day unhurt, but with puffy eyes and a cut that made him look a little like Edward Scissorhands on a bad hair day. I left a ridiculous tip.
The next few were similarly awful, so much so that at one point he'd start to cry whenever we drove down that particular block. So without really meaning to, we would stretch out the time between haircuts until he started to look like Elvis junior: at which point we would break down and bring him in again (although I'm telling you: I was sorely tempted to try barrettes). He had to be cut standing at the train table, with his hair dry, no smock, and at least one adult holding him at all times. We asked our ABA providers for ideas, and they suggested we try a social story about haircuts, and weave it in with some pretend play. It was slow at first: he resisted it and didn't seem to want to play haircut any more than he wanted to get one. But we persisted, and started to notice that the next time was easier (i.e., crying, but no flailing and hitting) and the next time, easier still (added bonus: the haircuts got better too). We would reinforce it by casually saying "Isaac, you really need a haircut" while ruffling his hair. Sometimes he'd disagree, saying "No haircut! Haircut's all done!"
Then about a week ago, Isaac was taking a walk with Beata, his nanny, and the wind was blowing his hair into his face. He looked up at her and announced "I need a haircut!" So Jesse took him a few days later. Isaac still cried, but it was bearable. He later informed us that he wanted another one. We didn't oblige, but at least we know we have the option for next time.