Hair Washing a 4 year old boy diagnosed with SPD

by Don Forde
(Needham, MA)

First, I sincerely thank all of those parents (mothers) that responded to my question about the fear of haircuts for my 4 year old grandson. His mother cuts his hair and he gets very distressed.

I'm sure all of your suggestions will be very helpful.

My grandson also does not like to have his hair washed. Any suggestions that you can provide would be much appreciated.

Thank all of you again for your kindness to me with your helpful suggestions.

I am very grateful that I found your website.

Don Forde

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Jul 26, 2018
Panic attacks age 5
by: Anonymous

My son's fiance has a 5 year old who's father repeatedly tormented him by dumping water on his head without giving him time to breathe. He doesn't remember the incidents but it was witnessed by an older sibling.

He goes into hysterics if you even say the word bath.

Help please! I am going to try the swim goggles.

Jun 27, 2018
Hair washing
by: Anonymous

My son is lucky if we get two hair washings a week in.

As for hair cuts... first he acted like he was dying and his hair was being ripped from his head.

Second time we did it while he slept.

Apr 20, 2013
by: Anonymous

My son is almost 6 years old. He started at 8 months old with freaking out when getting his hair cut. He would have a nervous breakdown and still to this day screams and cries gets so nervous that he breaks out in tiny red spots all over.

It's very difficult for him to get hair cuts. I get so upset when people say "gee... when is your son going to get a hair cut?"

I explain to them his panic attack's and sensory issues they just don't understand. They say "just make him do it" They don't see how getting a haircut takes sometimes 2 1/2 hours and he has anxiety attacks.

I of course am so upset because no mother wants to see their child in pain.

As for hair washing, I run my hands thru his hair and eventually it gets wet enough to put shampoo in it then when I rinse it. I again have to run clean water thru it with my fingers and make sure all the soap is gone.

It takes a lot of time but this is the only way I can think of that he will allow his hair to be washed.

Maybe one day when he gets older he will grow out of this or this is something we will have to deal with for a long time. We did take him to see a behavioral specialist a few times and she said she grew up in the hippy era and long hair was in.

She told me to make picture boards of what steps come first first... wet hair... then put shampoo... final step rinse hair.

We also made picture boards for getting a haircut.

I know its tough. You feel helpless. Just do what makes your grandchild comfortable.

Hang in there. Be strong.

Apr 30, 2010
hair wahing life saver
by: Anonymous

My 3 1/2 year old son used to hate taking baths at night because he didn't want his hair washed.

I finally tried a pool mask that covers his eyes and nose. He loves it because it keeps the water out of his face and he thinks it's fun.

He now loves bath time! It was a life saver.

Mar 20, 2010
washing and cutting hair
by: Anonymous

We have had the same problem for nearly 7 years now. He was diagnosed with SPD but we couldn't afford the therapy, not sure if it was even helping actually.

It is getting better. He prefers his dad to rinse his hair b/c his hand is bigger and the water doesn't leak down into his face like my hand does.

We make it real quick too.

Jun 20, 2009
So glad I'm not alone
by: Crista

I don't really have any suggestions but I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one who's kid had major issues w/ hair cuts, baths and teeth brushing!

Josh's did get better when the dr gave him anxiety medication. He was diagnosed w/ anxiety disorder about a year and half prior to being diagnosed w/ SPD.

Prozac changed his life!

May 30, 2009
Hair Washing Happiness???
by: Sharon

I am not sure if this will help anyone, but is something that I found. It is a Rinse Cup. It has a special rubber like side that molds to the person's head when you pour the water. It keeps the water and shampoo out of the person's face.

I have used it on my 18 month old son who also has Down's Syndrome. He usually freaks out when it comes to rinsing his hair. This product has made my life easier and significantly quieter (less screaming by my son). It seems to hold enough water to rinse a head with one "container-full".

May 14, 2009
hair washing
by: Anonymous

I just wanted to let you know that the hair washing, hair cutting, and teeth brushing all get better with therapy and time. I agree with some of the strategies listed before and for me giving my son some control seemed to help. My son was diagnosed at 4 and is now almost 6.

This past year we have noticed a significant decrease in his sensitivity to hair washing. Most weeks it is not an issue but we still have some weeks where he is more sensitive and now we know how to adapt things when he is having a more difficult week.

As some of the behaviors/issues/sensitivities improve it is easier to pick up on when they are having issues.

Hang in there, it gets better.

May 13, 2009
No Shampoo
by: mo2g

This may sound strange but there is a small movement among the "green" folks. People are, gasp, NOT USING SHAMPOO. They are just rinsing everyday with water and maybe adding a little leave-in conditioner.

The people who have tried it seem to think it is great. My 11 year old says she might try this in the summer. It may be that some ingredient in the shampoo is irritating. More likely he is afraid of getting shampoo in his eyes/face. They do make a visor that small kids can wear in the bath to prevent that from happening.

I agree that cutting his hair short would be a good solution as you could just use a washcloth to wipe his head off. His hair very likely doesn't NEED to be washed very often.

My 6yo who has SPD and OCD only gets her hair washed 2-3x/week.

Some battles are just not worth fighting--esp. w/ a 4yo.

May 08, 2009
by: Nancy Peske

Some ideas:

--Massage his head deeply before shampooing

--Give him control: let him apply the shampoo and rinse

--If he wants you to dump the water on his head for rinsing, count off to it so he's prepared

--Use a big (1/4 or 1/2 gallon) cup to dump water on his head if he prefers that to the lighter, sprinkling effect of a shower or handheld shower head

--let him wear swim goggles to keep his eyes dry


May 06, 2009
Hair cuts
by: Angela Dickey

I too have had the same problem with hair cuts and washings my sons hair.

I don't have any great advice but the only thing that has worked for me is buying a electric razor and cutting my sons hair short. It's fast and so is washing it when it's short.

My mom used to cut it but it was too stressful for her and him.

Best of luck to you and yours. :)


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