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USA: Parents exploring drama therapy techniques to navigate haircuts with sensitivity and creativity

Stuffed tiger getting a haircut
Photo illustration. Photo credit: Ken Scar

Columnist Richard E. Poulin III writes about seeking a more effective and less distressing approach to getting his daughter to have her hair cut. The parents decided to apply drama therapy techniques to help their daughter cope with the fear-inducing event of having her hair cut. Although the attempt didn't completely eliminate their daughter's distress, it provided a more positive and interactive way for her to engage with the idea of getting her hair cut, compared to the previous experiences that resulted in screaming and tears.

"Rylae-Ann didn’t have a choice regarding her first haircut. She couldn’t have resisted even if she’d wanted to, due to her AADC deficiency symptoms. She’d been selected to participate in a clinical trial for gene therapy, which was administered through cannulas that entered her brain from the front of her scalp. To perform this procedure, doctors needed that area free of hair."


"During our first trip to a kids’ beauty salon, we didn’t realize that having her hair cut would be a fear-inducing event. Each trip after that resulted in screaming and tears, regardless of a variety of tricks we had deployed. We eventually gave up on trying to go to salons, but the tangled problem only worsened."


"The next time, Judy and I agreed we would apply a more responsible approach. Drama therapy — using theater techniques, improvisation, and role-playing — had worked wonders before, improving Rylae-Ann’s experience with hospital visits, so we decided to try that. We had a year to prepare."


"The third time was supposed to be the charm. Armed with a hefty dose of patience, Judy and I started with role-playing. We used one of Rylae-Ann’s favorite stuffed animals to pretend play that we were visiting the hairdresser. We all pampered the teddy bear and used a set of toy beauty products. The bear even got a chance to pretend to cut my hair.

We then transitioned to Rylae-Ann’s turn to get her hair pretend-cut. We started with toy beauty products and then sneakily used real scissors. We got two cuts in before she quickly caught on.

Obviously, crying ensured, and now she walks around with half-cut, half-tangled hair. No one notices, though, and it will eventually grow out. But soon enough, her hair will get to a point where it must be cut again. I don’t know how we’ll accomplish that, but it will have to happen this year — hopefully, minus the tears."

Read the full column by Richard E. Poulin III on AADC News.


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