WWMPD (what would Mary Poppins do)

I hadn’t thought of it, but one of the boys’ caregivers at school, Devona, went thru the Gene Juarez Academy for hair. She came over Saturday and braved the storm with us to cut O’s hair. We tried everything to get O to calm down but it just was what it was…but it is now done. Since Devona knows O and is really easy going, it wasn’t as bad as having a total stranger at a kids hair salon undergo the experience with us. Since it was in our own home, we didn’t have to endure others getting upset. So, in that respect, it was better. In researching this a bit and trying to learn from others experiences, one woman said that she has to give her son a mild sedative to get through it. I wonder if that is where we’ll be headed. If we could get him to take a bath and wash his hair, then I don’t care if his hair is long.

One thing that stuck with me is that he kept on saying that it hurt. She tried the scissors and the clippers both to the same effect. It makes me wonder about pain and autism. I was reading somewhere that one of the factors of not being able to fully identify GI problems in autistic children is that it’s really difficult to discern the severity because pain tends to be different. Some kids sense no pain, and some kids are over sensitive to pain. Thinking back to the whole e.coli incident, I remember thinking that the pain that O is feeling is real. He isn’t imagining it. Would it be expressed in the same nature in another child?  Probably not. I wonder then why getting his haircut is painful.

The rest of the day, Peter and I (and probably Devona for that matter) walked around a bit off balance. Emotionally, the experience left us all drained and wondering what we could do to make it better for him. It just plain sucks to see your kid in any sort of pain, but to have to hold his legs down with your legs and arms and head just to get a haircut just seems so out of whack. It’s kinda the same process for a bath. Hence the reason why we don’t often give baths to O.

O has been extremely violent towards me lately. Okay, me, J, and E. If he doesn’t want to do something he will establish eye contact with you and scream that he hates you. Such difficult words to absorb. I try and repel them and think that it’s not him saying that, it’s just the autism. But, from there either he will change his mind and latch onto something that he wants to partake in, or he kicks, hits, or throws something at me. It makes it difficult, if not impossible for me to interact with him well. I realized that I am very hesitant to be on the floor with him, at his level, trying to interact with him. It takes a certain amount of vulnerability on my part to do so. Looking at the bruises on my body from the last week, I can honestly say that it has set me back from trying to play with him. Being on the defense is not a comforting place to be in in your own home. Maybe the way that I’m reacting to his behavior is making it worse. I am going to focus on that this week. Not trying to change my reaction, but just making note of it. Back to the ABC chart I mentioned last week.

I came across another autism video that I thought that I would share:


It is a really well produced video from Autism Speaks. Alot of the children profiled are far less functional that O. My heart breaks for their families. The reason why I share this is because of the similar journey we embark on. Not any two autistic children are exactly alike. They all have different strengths and weaknesses. Different symptoms. I’m so impressed with these moms determination and hope. It inspires me, doesn’t depress me.

What I noticed about the kids profiled that are similar to O is the screaming, the covering of the ears, spaced out look, in their own world, struggling with everyday activities, and the running.

There was a story of an autistic boy that was killed recently by running out in traffic after escaping from his home. That totally resonated. In the video above they talk about the running, the bolting. When we lived in our previous house, it was a very busy street and I was always completely terrified of him running out in the traffic and getting hit. So many times I threw E in the exersaucer so that I could run after O who found his way out of the house and was running down the street. He has/had no street sense and on a whim could run in front of a car. It is so scary. In our new house we also live on a busy street but O has gotten better with this and the doors are always locked. We’re having a front porch lock made so that if he gets out of the house that there is also the safety net of the front porch being enclosed. It helps a great deal that there is a fence like structure that prevents him from running directly out into the street. The other day we went to The Children’s Museum and he bolted. I lost him twice. I told the workers at the front to please look out for him and do not let him out the exit or the entrance without me. Thank goodness they were so understanding and kind. Emil was wearing a bright yellow vest. I need to get Oliver one, too. They’ll be easier to keep tract of.

So, back to the title of this entry…seriously, Mary Poppins made this all looked so easily. A spoonful of sugar made the medicine go down.  Was that the hardest thing that she seemed to have to contend with? Was that a metaphor for all difficult parenting? I wish that I knew how to sugar coat a haircut for O.

The dreaded haircut

There are currently two daily life activities that I dread with O.  That list has been reduced a great deal in the last year, but the haircut and the bath are a no go. Not just a, ‘Mom, Dad, I don’t think that I’m going to do this today’. But, more of a full body scream. Even the notion of ‘hair cut’ elicits such physical pain in him. The same reaction to bathing. And to water. I did a web search on ideas that might make this process less painful for all of us. We have used the electric clippers but that freaked him the heck out. So, we used hair scissors. Interestingly, same exact amount of tantrum and screaming. I thought that maybe the vibration/noise from the clippers were the culprit. So, we then reverted to the clippers because it makes the process quicker, but not more or less painful. It is a two person job. Actually, 3. One person to care for E. One to hold O down and try and distract him, and the other person to do the cutting. So entirely heart-wrenching for all of us involved. We tried every kids hair studio in Seattle. I cannot possibly take him back to any of them. I know that they wouldn’t say that we can’t go back, but it’s so brutal a process that it upsets everyone else. Too much judgement to absorb when all I care about is my son and I getting through the process intact. Sorry at that moment that I didn’t care how the little girl’s curls were turning out in the chair next to us. I’m sorry that my son’s gut wrenching screams upset her. To her mom who passed such judgment upon me, I can only say that, ‘believe me, I’d like for him to not be crying more than anyone in this entire world! I cannot stop this. I’d do anything to help him to stop this and don’t think that I haven’t.’ So…there will be no more hair salons or barbershops in our near future for him. Here’s what we’ve tried…we let him help us to give J haircuts with the clippers, with the scissors. Take him to the barbershop with J and he has no problem watching him get a haircut, but if you even suggest that maybe he get a haircut, forget it. We’ve tried bribery, positive reinforcement, watching a movie during, candy…pretending to cut his stuffed animal’s hair…changed venue to haircutting outside, inside, in the kitchen, in the bathroom…trying to convince him that his hair smells dirty and needs to be either cleaned or cut.  Then the screaming begins and he covers his ears. Guess that he didn’t want to hear about that! I would just say to let it grow, who cares about how long his hair is, but since he will not take a bath, we have keep it short just so that we can keep it clean. We wash it with a wash cloth and also we buy dry shampoo at Sephora.  You have to put it in your hand and apply it from behind so he doesn’t catch on to what you’re doing. God forbid. So, when his hair gets too long, like right now, I start getting that pit in my stomach again.  Here we go…but we just have to do it. He starts to scream and then the hair gets in his mouth and then he is mad, scared, angry, and everything (not) nice. Anyone who is reading this that has any suggestions after reading this, please let me know. We are welcome to suggestions whole heartedly. Part of the reason to write this blog is to learn from others journeys by putting myself out there. There is so much and I’m so entirely grateful for those who have been down this path before me and are willing to share what works and what doesn’t for them.

I came across this video when searching for information about autism and hair cutting ideas. Get your hanky out. Bless these people’s hearts.  I totally get it.

hair cut video

Wish us luck as we embark upon the dreaded haircut in one of the next couple of days. Ugg…I’m totally bracing myself. I just wish that I understood what about the process was so painful and terrifying for him.

I didn’t see the irony in the title of this blog until now…dreaded haircut…dreadlocks (a direction that I hadn’t even considered). I didn’t know that I was so funny 😉