Planning Eases Anxiety When My Angel Is Getting a Haircut

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by Sabrina L. Johnson |

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When you’re raising a child with Angelman syndrome, even simple things like a haircut need a plan of action. I no longer try winging it when it’s time for my 12-year-old Angel, Juliana, to get her curly locks trimmed.

Like many adjustments we’ve made while living with Angelman syndrome, getting Juliana’s hair cut has taken some trial and error. When Juliana was really tiny, I could manage a trim or haircut myself. But as she got older, it was impossible to keep her still and manage the precise artistry that is necessary for a presentable haircut.

‘If at first you don’t succeed’

I tried one of those shops with all the bells and whistles, like cars you can sit in and TVs loudly playing children’s shows all around the shop. It seemed like a good idea. However, the ambiance did little to soothe Juliana. Angels, after all, are prone to hyperactivity and have a short attention span. I think the bells and whistles were overstimulating and more harmful than helpful.

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The appointment was a complete disaster. Juliana left the shop crying, and I was nearly in tears. Moving on to find a better fit made good sense. I started looking for a shop that was smaller and more specialized.

Once I found a smaller place, we didn’t just randomly pick a stylist. I met with the owner and explained that Juliana isn’t always the calmest, most patient kiddo. I think this was an important disclosure that made all the difference. Taking this into consideration, the salon’s owner paired us with Amanda. It was the right choice. Amanda is calm and patient.

getting a haircut | Angelman Syndrome News | photo showing a stylist with multicolored hair using a brush on Juliana's hair

Juliana is cool as a cucumber as Amanda detangles her curls for a shorter haircut for the summer. (Photo by Sabrina L. Johnson)

Ready for battle

But most importantly, Amanda isn’t fazed by Juliana’s unpredictable temperament. Juliana’s default is to scream when she is unhappy or unsure of something. For her, having someone come at her hair with a sharp object qualifies as an unhappy event. Depending on Juliana’s mood, there could be a lot of screaming when she gets a haircut. Fortunately for us, Amanda is a multitasking marvel who can distract Juliana and still cut with precision.

“Oops, what was that, Juliana?” Amanda asks as she drops a comb. It’s her little trick to get Juliana to look down while she cuts the back of her hair.

Nowadays, my husband is the one taking Juliana to her hair appointments. However, I make sure he’s armed with an arsenal of Juliana’s favorites: her iPad, her favorite doll, Ladybug, and a musical toy. I even prep Juliana for the event in advance. When she was smaller, I’d show her a picture of Amanda cutting her hair. Now, the day before her appointment, I’ll repeat, “Juliana, it’s time to see Ms. Amanda for a haircut.”

Just right

The final piece to a better haircut experience is the timing. It took one trip during normal hours to realize going at an earlier time of day wouldn’t work. Now, we are always Amanda’s last haircut on Thursdays. We picked Thursdays so we are a little closer to the end of the week.

getting a haircut | Angelman Syndrome News | photo of Juliana in the stylist's chair looking at the camera, with the stylist behind her

Mission accomplished: Juliana poses with her stylist, Amanda, after getting a back-to-school trim. (Photo by Sabrina L. Johnson)

We are purposely the last appointment so that Juliana doesn’t clear out the salon. If she screams her head off, only one or two people are in the salon to get an earful of it. Although Jules has made great progress in knocking to communicate when she wakes up in the morning, this type of communication hasn’t translated to other areas yet.

Of course, no near-traumatic experience would be complete without a reward. Unlike our visits to the shoe store, there is no balloon at the end of Juliana’s haircut. But when she gets home, she gets to dive into a creamy cup of strawberry sorbet.

With her spoon poised and ready for a scoop, another haircutting adventure comes to a close.

getting a haircut | Angelman Syndrome News | photo of Juliana grinning as she sits at a table

Juliana enjoys a sorbet treat after enduring a haircut. (Photo by Sabrina L. Johnson)

Note: Angelman Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Angelman Syndrome News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Angelman syndrome.


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