Headlice and Autism
Jun 02, 2016
Headlice are enough to make any parent shudder… When a child has autism they may be distressed with hair brushing or fearful about the creatures and it turns it all into a nightmare for them and you. This all got me thinking about the best strategies for dealing with headlice when a child has autism.
Before we start I have to give you a bit of background on my own experience with headlice... after 12 years of being a mother, and now having 6 children – this year I have had my first encounters with the nasty little critters. It’s been intense in a big family and was quite a learning curve, but we got through and found natural solutions that worked well. Going through the traumatic process with a toddler and a baby as well (who picked them up off their siblings) got me thinking about how to manage headlice for children with autism. And I’ve been lucky enough to have some families try out the strategies and give me some feedback – so here with are with my top tips for dealing with headlice when you have a child with autism:
Coping with Sensory Issues, Fear and Anxiety about Treatment and Combing
- Keep in mind the type of sensory input is calming for your child (if you don't know you might want to explore this with an occupational therapist). If deep pressure is calming you can try a scalp massage before combing, or use a weighted cushion, or weighted neck pillow. If music helps then have your music playing.
- Have a doll that your child can comb, or put conditioner in every time they need to have it done to them. They may like to do this at other times throughout the day too. Play is a great way for breaking down fears when children have the imaginative play skills to engage.
- It’s very handy if you can have a second person to help – one person to distract them and one to comb/treat.
- Use the best distractions you can (and that does include the iPad or TV if needed).
- Have some time during the day where you allow them to comb you (doesn’t have to be a nit comb, can just be a regular comb). Depending on your child you can be playful and funny about this e.g. pretend to hide because you are terrified of the comb, or pretend they combed a big furry monster out of your hair. Only do this if they will find it funny and enjoy playing as you want to ease the tension around nit combing.
- Have a routine around nit combing e.g. twice a day every day for a week. If you use a visual routine then make a visual cue for the combing.
- Ensure to comb all the tangles out really well first to avoid pain before using nit combs.
- Draw stories or pictures about what is happening from their perspective, e.g. "I have nits and I don't like them... they are itchy and the combing is annoying too."
You all know I avoid chemical solutions for all health issues in our family. I find the natural solutions generally work just as well (if not better), and I am more trusting of the ingredients and how they affect our overall health, and the microorganisms (e.g. gut flora) that keep us healthy.
- As a good first step put apple cider vinegar all over the hair and scalp (this stops the nits sticking to the hair). Allow it to dry. Then smother the hair with coconut oil and leave overnight. The nits will all be dead. Then you can apply conditioner and nit comb them.
- I find it best to comb and treat more frequently than recommended. Perhaps it is because we live in the tropics. But in my experience, and from feedback from other families, if you only treat every 5-7 days you won’t be able to get rid of them as new ones are hatching and laying new eggs before you get remove them.
- We sometimes just used conditioner to smother them and combed them an hour or so later and this worked well.
- I do really love the Shady Grove Headlice Conditioner and Shampoo and they have a nice preventative spray too. It smells great too. On the other hand you can just add some essential oils e.g. teatree, eucalyptus to your shampoo and conditioner.
- Mechanical removal of eggs by nitcombing is highly recommended in combination with any other treatments you choose.
I'd love to hear from you about your top tips for treating headlice, especially when children have autism so leave me a message below or send me an email. And I hope your experience with headlice is over as quickly as can be!
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