The Big T

The Big T?  Yes, The Big T.  What does T stand for, you may ask?  Well, let me tell you.  In the world of Dr. Seuss, T stands for “ten tired turtles in a tuttle, tuttle tree.”  In our world, T stands for toenails, specifically, the toenails belonging to my son.

Some ADLs (activities of daily living) are easier than others.  He can easily dress and undress himself.  Heck, he loves to undress himself.  He is a clothing optional kind of guy.  He needs help to do a good job brushing his teeth.  I keep his hair really short, so it is simply wash and wear.  But, there are some things that he simply cannot do, and cutting his nails is one of them.  Furthermore, he does not want anyone else to cut them, either.  This has been the case for 15 years.  Some kids on the spectrum can learn to cut their own nails, though if you think about it, it takes a fair amount of manual dexterity.  My son will probably never be able to cut his own nails, hence, the task falls to yours truly.

Even as a preemie, he had really long nails.  He was so tiny and fragile, I was afraid to go near his fingers with clippers, so I filed them with an emmory board.  The nurses in the NICU got a good laugh at the earnest young mama, bent over the incubator and filing her offspring’s nails.  Even then, he did not appreciate it.

Fast forward 15 years.  He still has finger nails and toe nails that grow at warp speed and resemble talons.  If he sees me heading his way with the clippers, he heads for the hills.  So, I have a few options.  I can put him in the bath after his evening meds and wait until he is good and drowsy.  Once he is relaxed I can cautiously set to work, one finger and one toe at a time.  This works, but only if he is truly exhausted.  The other option is bribery.  My son will do a lot for a handful of gummy bears.  I get him to sit on my lap and then I wrap my legs around him.  I tell him, multiple times, “First nails, then candy”.  If we make it through the first hand or foot without issue, I will probably take a candy break in the middle, just to keep the good will flowing.  I don’t release my death grip on him, or he will be off and gone.  We proceed unto the next hand or foot, repeating our mantra about first nails, then candy.  When we are done, I heavily reward him with lots of gummy bears.  There is one other option, which I prefer to avoid.  This involves putting him into a full restraint and cutting his nails super fast.  I don’t like doing this to him, and it is rather like wrestling a spring loaded octopus.  He is very limber, strong and fast.  Bribery with candy is my preferred MO.

I would like to say that over the years nail clipping has gotten easier, or that he has learned to do it himself.  This, however, would be a lie. It is an ordeal we both dread.  Your child may learn to tolerate nail cutting or learn to do it him/herself.  If you have any tips you would like to share about how you cut your child’s nails, please chime in.  In a later post, I will tackle hair cuts.


Author: snort262

I am a wife, mom, long distance runner and fierce autism advocate. My background is in education. Currently, I am a nanny, a tutor, and an autism consultant.

3 thoughts on “The Big T”

  1. Great article! I certainly can relate as my banana doesn’t like her nails cut, either. Her feet are the worse. Yes, wrestling with an octopus. Yikes!


  2. The good thing about a bath before finger and toenail time, is that nails get softer and much easier to cut with a little warm, happy splash time first


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