He let me trim his fingernails

Okay, if you read the title, you are all set. I’m just so excited that I had to get it out there. For the first time since Philip was an infant, I cut his fingernails without him crying. I’m going to babble on about this a bit further, but you can stop reading now if you are pressed for time.

Philip, like many children with sensory issues related to autism or Sensory Processing Disorder, has refused to let me trim his finger and toe nails. I’ve tried using an emery board to file them, but I’ve usually lost the battle of squirming and withdrawing. That means that Philip has had long, sharp nails for most of his life. Eventually, they get worn from use or break, but not before he scratches himself or Mommy. I’m embarrassed to draw the comparison, but I began approaching the nail situation like I do with my dog. If I walk the dog enough, his nails stay short. I was hoping the same principle would work with Philip and outdoor activity.

It took a while for me to realize that Philip’s aversion wasn’t only a reaction to the physical touch of the trimmer to nails. Eventually, Peter and I both noticed that Philip would cringe and even cry when we trimmed our own nails. What seems like a small “snick” sound to me must sound like a loud “CRACK” to his sensitive ears.

I observed this same phenomenon when trimming Philip’s hair. I cut his hair at bath time. He is usually playing and definitely not sitting still. I am as careful as can be, but sometimes I miss and cut only air. He will turn in reaction to that sound, not to the sensation of his head and hair being touched. That being said, this summer has been a turning point in haircuts. I don’t plan on running him straight to the barber, but I’ve managed to get his hair short enough for summer. No one who looks closely is going to be mistake this for a professional job-it is thin in some spots and uneven all over. But I can cut Philip’s hair.

With the success of cutting hair, I decided to attempt trimming nails once more. Several weeks ago, I got out the baby trimmers and trimmed Philip’s toe nails. I cut two before he started to cry. He was crying, but I managed to take a little bit off of each toe nail and a few of his fingernails before he became too agitated.

I don’t know why I decided to trim his nails tonight. I suppose I noticed how long they were while washing his muddy hands. After being stuck inside yesterday and most of today due to rain and cooler temperatures, we had just spent almost two hours outside. Philip found the only puddle in the yard and dug right in. His nails were long enough to capture and hold quite a bit of dirt and mud.

In addition to playing in the dirt, Philip ran around the yard, climbed on his play set and spent the last half hour climbing up his slide. I wonder if all of this sensory input helped set the stage for “my” success. I don’t know for sure, but there is certainly no harm in replicating this in the future.

He let me trim his fingernails. I guess we get to add a new picture to his schedule.

14 thoughts on “He let me trim his fingernails

  1. I know what you mean, girl! I have also struggled with this. I just want to encourage you…today my son walked into the bathroom, grabbed the tweezers and clipped a hang nail! I was so shocked! Keep up the good work, Momma! It gets better.


  2. That is definitely a huge step. You already know about the struggles we have had with hair cutting in my house, but trimming nails takes the cake. I am always so nervous I am going to catch his skin in the clippers. It causes probably more anxiety in me that it does for my son. And, of course, Joel will not sit still for nail clipping. Good job to Philip getting over this minor, and yet also major, hurdle! 🙂


  3. One more big step! So glad he is letting you do that. It was a momentous occasion at our house when Tate started to let us do the same. Way to go!


  4. Yay! Another proud mama moment for you 😉 Here’s to playing in some mud and hope the experience goes just as awesome the next time! I know B still hates when we cut hers, but I can usually distract her enough w/ t.v. and chewing gum. Toenails are a lot more challenging w/ plenty of tears/whines to with it 😦


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