One of the biggest self-care challenges for John, my autistic brother, is shaving his face. Though shaving can be a tedious daily task for a typical man, it immensely frustrates John. Shaving became such a nuisance for John that he tried to grow a beard. But, the maintenance of the beard became more of a nuisance, than shaving.
To help John with shaving, we learned a few tricks to make the shaving process a little easier:
- Find a razor he is comfortable with using, safely:
When John first learned how to shave, he was given a regular one blade razor and shaving cream. John liked the feel of the shaving cream, but he struggled with the razor. Since John has a habit of fidgeting during shaving, he wound up with more cuts than hairs shaved. An electric razor not only cuts his hair but, it’s also safer for him to use on his own.
- Have a game plan:
While John is able to shave some of his face independently, he still needs help with close shaving of his sideburns, chin, and neck. These parts of shaving tend to take the most time. Since John can become antsy just after a few minutes, I try to set up a plan for shaving him. Using a combination of the long hair and close shave electric razors, I will work small sections of his face at a time, moving from one side to another. And if John needs a break, I let him have a small break. Depending on the length of hair and John’s cooperation, it can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes for a complete shave.
- Talk him through the process:
Since John gets nervous with shaving, I tell him what part of his face I’m going to shave. For example, I tell John, “I’m going to work on your upper lip. When I’m done, I’m going to work on your upper left cheek.” I’ll also tell John each time I finish a section shaving. This lets him know that I’m that much closer to finishing his shave. By talking John through the process he feels a little more comfortable with being shaved.
- Ease his tension when shaving:
When John is more impatient, or anxious, I try to ease his tension by telling him a story. Other ways you can ease tension are:
- Have a set time every day, or every other day for shaving
- Sitting him down
- Shave with the door open
- Reward his patience with a compliment, or treat
- Play calming music
- Letting him watch videos on a smartphone/tablet or TV
- Cuddling with a stuffed toy
- Let him stand on a fuzzy rug, with no shoes, just socks
- If he has an assistance animal, have the animal sit with him
- Shaving in another room, like his bedroom
- Learning to shave will take time:
John is still learning to shave. Over the years John has improved his self-care skills. But still needs help, from time to time. We encourage him to try to shave on his own. But if he needs help, he knows he can come to us.
- Keep yourself calm and in control:
Though helping John shave has tested my patience, too, I’ve had to stay calm and in control. The one time I lost my cool, I struggled, even more, to help John shave. And for the rest of that week, shaving him was close to impossible. Neither of you should go into shaving irritated, or frustrated. You can skip a day, or so if it’s just regular maintenance shaving. But, if he has to get ready for a special occasion, then, try shaving when everyone has cooled off, or at a later time. Don’t feel bad if you wind up helping to shave your loved one shave five minutes before having to leave. We’ve been there more than once.
Daily self-care maintenance can be challenging for those with developmental challenges. But, the right help and patience can go a long way.