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Refusing to brush and wash hair
  • alc76
    Posts: 22
    Hi. My 10 year old daughter has an ASD diagnosis though we suspect she has PDA. We have removed many demands at home and even tolerate a once a week hairwash/shower (on a good week). However recently she has refused to shower and wash her hair (building work has rendered the shower out of use though there is an alternative available) and combined with her poor efforts at hair brushing has left her hair matted. It is getting increasingly difficult to get her to let me sort her hair out (can take an hour to tease out the clumps of hair). I have explained what will happen if she doesn’t let me and though I think she understands and doesn’t like her hair matted, she cannot bring herself to let me help her. Pushing her on this results in meltdowns with physical outbursts towards the family. Apart from getting it all cut off (which she would never allow to happen) has anyone got any ideas on how to persuade her to let me brush it, assist in calming her(she refuses her weighted blanket, vibrating cushion) and how to prevent it matting in the first place. Thanks.
  • RhanHRhanH
    Posts: 829
    Hiya, we've had similar challenges. With regard to hair brushing we found that we have to apply pressure to the top of our daughter's head whilst we brush with a large tangle teaser, being very careful not to touch her face or ears. Using a shampoo with good conditioner to ease the tangles has helped and she will now only ever wear her hair in plaits as she knows this reduces knots. We found a good understanding hairdresser, who we now see every half term hol, to sort our original matted hair out and I'm sure because it wasn't me helping her she went along with it. It did take me an hour to get her there and I paid the price when we got home again, but it was worth it. When we get a problem now I'm afraid I resort to the iPad and something to eat for distraction while I very carefully brush having sprayed her hair with detangler spray first!

    Washing we’ve still not cracked but baby wipes are great!
  • Maybe tying it back will help as there will be no wild strands of hair to get knotted. Or plaits as RhanH has suggested, even better.

    At 10yo she might not be bothered enough about the social impact of not washing or hair being clean. But I did tell our now 12yo at least a year ago, that if she didn't let me wash her hair it would be greasy and people would think she was dirty. That did the trick, although she still can refuse on the odd day (which is when I have to use dry shampoo) and still resists coming to the bathroom with excuses even when she does let me.

    It may be sensory issues are so bad for her that even if you are combing normally it still hurts her. Perhaps try with her holding the comb or brush and you holding your hand over the top and being as gentle as possible and telling her she is in control of when you stop as she can lift her hand away.

    A bath or strip wash might be a better solution to a shower if it's the water being a sensory issue with showers. The water pressure and hundreds of drops of water hitting the skin can seem almost painful to them.
  • alc76
    Posts: 22
    Thanks for your reply. I’ve tried many of your suggestions but she can be particularly fixed and inflexible. I also tell her that her friends will comment on her hair and how she smells but that seems to have no impact. Hopefully by the age of 12 she’ll take more notice. I’ll keep trying.
  • alc76
    Posts: 22
    Thanks RhanH. I particularly like your comment on visiting the hairdressers regularly. I think I might look into that. I normally get her hair cut as it’s needed but maybe going more regularly will help. Previously I’d even suggested she get a hairwash at the hairdressers but she refused this too. Also thought about asking the hairdresser to thin her hair out so there is less to deal with. I managed to brush it a little today - had to compromise on only doing for 20 mins and doing another 20 mins tomorrow night - while she ate a load of chocolates. So she now currently has half a head of matted hair......a start at least!
  • RhanHRhanH
    Posts: 829
    Funnily enough the only time our daughter likes having her hair washed is at the hairdressers! I have to say that it has been difficult going regularly but 3 years in it is getting easier!

    I think you did well managing 20 mins, good luck for tonight!
  • Probably because it's often mum the child wants to control most of all and a hairdresser is not mum. The same way they mask with others because they are anxious with those they do not feel are their safety person, the hairdresser is an unknown quantity.
  • Once a week wahing hair here, brushing as it happens and to be honest you can’t really tell either way. We only have an annual visit to the hairdressers, the last one was a pamper session courtesy of my mum and she loved it and I thought that we can do it more often but sadly said she won’t be going back again as she doesn’t want her hair to grow or be cut! I don’t help as I don’t go to the hairdressers very often and make minimal effort with my hair and we both have slow growing very thin hair. Nits are doing the rounds and I am dreading her getting them again..... Well done on making a start on her hair, good luck for part 2

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