hair washing with SPD - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 19 Old 10-11-2010, 09:27 AM - Thread Starter
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My dd, 4, has just been diagnosed with SPD. This, I guess, explains why hair washing has always been so traumatic. It's a battle both to wet her hair in order to shampoo it and then an even bigger battle to rinse out the shampoo (and don't even talk about hair brushing -- we've all but given up). It's awful whether we do baths or showers, whether she bathes by herself or with one of us. We try to encourage her to look up sot that the water runs down her back, but she panics and looks down instead. We've given her a wash cloth to hold over her face, but she still screams.

So far we've managed by only washing her hair once a week, but it starts to smell before then. Especially since chewing on her hair is another one of her SPD behaviors.

Any ideas?

Sarah, mama to Miriam 9/26/2006 and Isaac 2/12/2010
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#2 of 19 Old 10-11-2010, 09:35 AM
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Aww poor thing. My ds was like that too, with his SPD. He did outgrow it however, and by the time he was 5 he was ducking his head under in at the pool, believe it or not!! What I did for hairwashing was several techniques..
1. I bought a plastic watering can, like you water flowers with but a childs size one and it sprinkles out slowly, I let him *water* his flowers on his head...he would actually wet his own hair himself, it was like if HE did it, it was OK...the shampooing part was never easy, I just kept his hair really short and it was easier on me(but with girls that would be more difficult I suppose, unless you had a bob hair cut)
2. put cool glowing in the dark space stickers on the ceiling. we would transition to turning the lights out(i had a nightlight in there so i could still see a bit but the stars still glowed) and he knew when the light went out, he could see the stars glow, but he had to have his hair washed in order to see the stars glow. worked occasionally. not ALL the time, but if he was in the mood he would ask to see stars and say mama wash hair..he knew the routine.
3. music is a great distraction, i would have a CD player in there with his fav barney songs and i would wash hair while making him sing apples and bananas or whatever was on, he would still cry but not as bad.
4. accept that she is going to be like this. there is not much you can do to make it magically better, just keep trying different things to make it tolerable. hopefully she will outgrow this stage of SPD, she may not, but maybe she will as she gets older.

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#3 of 19 Old 10-11-2010, 11:10 AM
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My son used to VERY bad about having his hair washed. I'm talking about blood curdling screams. He has outgrown much of it but still doesn't like it (he just doesn't scream about it now.)

The thing that helped most of all was that I bought a new showerhead that also has a hand held attachment. I also have him hold a facecloth over his eyes.

When he's super sensitive, I use a very wet facecloth to wet his hair. Then I lather. Then I use the very wet cloth to rinse his hair. It takes a long time but it works. (You have to carefully 'wipe' the hair with the wet cloth. It obviously needs to be very wet but you have to be careful when wiped around the face.)

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#4 of 19 Old 10-11-2010, 07:35 PM
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My 8 year old still hates having her hair washed. She will put her head underwater at the pool and can tolerate that ok, but washing her hair really bothers her. Until she was about 6 it was a scream-fest when we had to do it. It's much better now- she washes it herself most of the time with 'kid-friendly' shampoo, and about twice a week I wash and condition it for her. She's getting older and has more 'grown-up' hair. She doesn't want it short, so the agreement is that if she can't manage it alone she needs to let me help enough to keep it healthy and looking decent.

Because she is older and doesn't really need mom helping her bathe- and she wants privacy, we do 'girl's nights' where we do hair and mani-pedi nights together like we're in a fancy salon. She hates the hair washing, but the special girl-time is worth it to her.
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#5 of 19 Old 10-11-2010, 07:49 PM
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we just didn't wash their hair. we do an oil cleansing method on their scalp- coconut oil with sometimes a bit of essential oil if they're willing. drench with oil and let the oil soak in, and then loosen the sebum with a comb (this takes awhile). then they can rinse it off with the warmest water they will tolerate, and there is no soap burning in the eyes. gets their scalp way cleaner than an unwilling shampoo job, and the oil left in the hair conditions the hair so it often doesn't need brushing. if they have balked at the combing of the scalp, or life has intervened, i have actually just left the oil in their hair and it wears out without being grody as you'd suppose. coconut oil is not as greasy as some other oils, and washes out of pillowcases and clothes better (perhaps that's why they use it in soap). also, we got a foam visor for the times they want to pour water over their head and keep it out of their eyes.
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#6 of 19 Old 10-11-2010, 08:07 PM
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My 5 yo has recently outgrown hating it (along with many of his other sensory issues). The best thing for him, is to let him wash it on his own.

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#7 of 19 Old 10-11-2010, 08:18 PM
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My 3 1/2 has this issue. She has thick curly hair and she sweats easily so it stinks very quickly, and I can't only get her to tolerate hair washing once a week. She won't let me comb it either, so it looks pretty much like a rat's nest a lot.

For a while - the only thing that worked was putting a baby bath in the bathtub (her idea), she would lay down in it and lay back and it would support her head - she was too big for it of course, but the size seemed to support her head back and feet so she didn't get wet. I also used a peri bottle to rinse her hair. For some reason she was okay with that, but it lasted all of 3 baths, and now she has decided she doesn't want it in the tub, even though it seemed to make bath time easier for both of us. Maybe you could try something like a seat or something that she can be supported a little more. Sometimes I think it's like a dizziness or - I can't remember the word - how she is in relation to stuff around her. My daughter can't walk on swingy type bridges or go down ramps, so it's some type of issue with perception I think, I think looking up physically bothers her, so I think she needs physical support to ground her. My thoughts anyway.

I also use a little shampoo and rinse out with a comb or washcloth. It takes forever, but the only thing she will tolerate now.

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#8 of 19 Old 10-11-2010, 08:36 PM
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Do you have one of these bath visors?

That was the only thing that made it at all possible to wash ds' hair. I also recommend washing hair in the bathtub with a handheld shower. We don't actually have a shower head in our bathroom, so I bought one from the hardware store that fits over the spout. That, together with the visor, makes it possible. The shower spout is gentle and controlable, and the visor keeps the water off his face. If your dd is really sensitive, then I'd give her a wash cloth too.

Once a week is about all we manage too. It does get better with time.

And if her hair does start to get smelly, you could 'freshen' it up with some detangler. (Not that I've ever gone that route ).

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#9 of 19 Old 10-11-2010, 09:46 PM
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We still struggle with hair washing at 7 but my DD is a lot better now than she was. For the longest time she would lay down on a towel in the tub with no water and I would roll up another towel to support her neck and we'd pull her hair straight up so it would lay on the towel. I used a hand held shower (the rubbery type that hook onto the tub faucet, not the shower head kind) and wet her hair, then shampooed and rinse. I had to be very careful not to get any water on her face or in her ears but she tolerated this well. Afterwards I could sometimes replace the towel under her hair and she would let me comb it while it was still wet. We always listened to music or an audio book to try to keep her distracted. I think laying down made her feel supported and grounded and the towel under her prevented her from feeling the water trickle down her body. It generated a lot of laundry but it was a small price to pay.

Michele - Homeschooling mom to Hadley, (10/03 - the 23 week preemie miracle) and Noah, (08/05)
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#10 of 19 Old 10-11-2010, 10:17 PM
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We have a boy with sensory issues, and getting water in his face (even a drop) or ears is a problem. Is it a problem for her getting the water in her ears perhaps? Have you tried the waterproof silicone earplugs? That doesn't help the hair sensitivity, but can help with the water in the ear problem.

Is it also an issue with the way it's rinsed? As in, if you have a hand shower wand, is she afraid of having that so close to her head with water running out of it? Could it be better to use a cup to rinse? Or is she afraid of the cup and might a hand shower be worth a try? We use a hand shower and have DS lying down on a soft shower mat (with the tub empty). We also give him a toy to hold onto while getting the hair washed. We only have maybe 30 seconds for the whole process. He would never go for a sitting up or standing up hair wash.

We keep DS's hair cut reasonably short so that a once a week hair wash works fine. He hates the haircut, but that's the battle I'd rather fight. I know that trying to cut the hair of such a sensitive person is hard, but do you think that keeping your DD's hair fairly short would help overall with the hair washing and brushing?

Finally, does she like you singing to her? Have you tried singing to her while you are washing her hair?

ETA: On vacation or other times we can't wash hair, we use a wet washcloth and just wipe his hair & head.

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#11 of 19 Old 10-11-2010, 10:26 PM
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One thing that made a big difference with my sensory guy was to not run the water. We had always turned the water on to fill the bucket. One day, I noticed his whole body relaxed with a big heaving sigh when I turned it off. Now I wash him when he first gets in the tub when the water in the tub is still clean and scoop water from the tub with no running water. The running water in our tub is just really rumbling loud.

The other thing very recently he has chosen to do, now after a summer of successful face in the water swimming, is that he wants to lay on his back in the tub with the water just ear level. I think he likes how all the sound goes away when it covers his ears. All I have to do is very gently swish the hair in the water, and rinse his bangs with a facecloth when he does this. Just be really careful not to drip water on his face though!
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#12 of 19 Old 10-11-2010, 11:21 PM
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thank you for starting this thread! My almost-6-yo is most likely SPD (haven't had him evaluated yet...) and has always had so much trouble in the bath! When he was a toddler he was terrified of water, period so we couldn't even get him IN the bath. We just shaved his head and sponge bathed him for months, lol. Finally I got him used to water (don't remember how, just kept trying i think)...and now he loves baths but we've never gotten past the hair washing problem. I've tried getting him to lay on his back in a very shallow bath - no dice, he feels like he's falling i think based on the way he gets upset. We've tried using the detachable shower head - he won't tip his head back because again, he feels like he's falling or losing balance. I've tried cups, washcloths, letting him do it, etc. It drives me batty. Going to pour over this thread for more ideas!

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#13 of 19 Old 10-11-2010, 11:26 PM
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Originally Posted by hadleys_mom View Post
For the longest time she would lay down on a towel in the tub with no water
WHY have I never thought to do it with the tub EMPTY! Then he wouldn't have that falling/drowning feeling! I'm trying that this week...he must have clean hair for our family photos! lol.

Genie, mama to T (4/02), I (10/04) and T (7/09)

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#14 of 19 Old 10-12-2010, 01:05 AM
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Hi, there are such great ideas above. Here is what worked for us.

Chewing gum during hair washing.

Using a mat in the tub and a hand held sprayer.

Having a regular hair washing schedule -- three days a week. Believe it or not, it is easier to wash hair more often than to wait two weeks and then wash it. It's easier to wash hair that is not totally filthy and tangled because it goes faster.

Also, shorter hair is nice. Our daughter wants long hair, so we ask for layers and shorter in the back when she gets it cut.

Keeping the hair untangled during the day helps with the washing at night.

Having a HUGE stack of washclothes, all the kind and same color, at one end of the tub so that our daughter can get as many as she likes for her eyes and ears. This gives her a lot of control.

Using spray on conditioner and a detangling comb, available from beauty supply stores. We also just found a special brush made for hair washing called the Wet Brush that works great. It works so well for us that I went back and bought one for me and one for our other daughter. We made the rule that the wet brush must stay in the bathroom.

Good smelling shampoo that she chooses.

The main thing, according to our daughter, is that I need to remember to ask "are you ready" before actually squirting the water on her.
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#15 of 19 Old 10-12-2010, 03:14 AM
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DS still hates washing his hair, but will grudgingly do it wearing goggles and rinsing it in clear bath water - so don't have them soap up in the bathtub first - get the hair washing done in clear water. We use the no more tears type stuff because getting stingy eyes once set us back weeks. DS usually needs to have some play time in the tub first to get used to the wet.

A huge bit of progress came from swimming lessons - with those goggles on so tight that he comes out of lessons with pressure rings around his eyes!

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#16 of 19 Old 10-13-2010, 10:23 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all these wonderful ideas -- all much better than just having her scream. I think we'll try the handheld shower and visor and see how it goes.

Sarah, mama to Miriam 9/26/2006 and Isaac 2/12/2010
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#17 of 19 Old 10-13-2010, 10:14 PM
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Have you ever looked into these cups? It makes it a bit easier with our DS. We have one similar to this:

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#18 of 19 Old 10-15-2010, 12:12 PM
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5 yo with SPD this has been a MAJOR issue for us too. We rely on the cup mentioned above, which has been a lifesaver for us, and also let her wear swimming goggles. Lately she has started washing her hair herself in the sink, with some supervision to make sure she rinses properly---but this has made a HUGE difference.
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#19 of 19 Old 10-16-2010, 02:54 PM
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We have that one, too. It works wonders with my DS.
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