Hairdressers with heart and skill are tending to these special children’s needs in a heartwarming way
Getting a haircut might not seem like a big deal for most people. However, for others on the autistic spectrum, the simple act of sitting in the hairdresser's chair and having your hair can be quite traumatizing. "Autistic children and young people can often find having their hair cut extremely distressing because of sensory challenges associated with the condition," Meleri Thomas, of the UK's National Autistic Society, told the BBC . "This means that when an autistic person is having their hair cut, the feeling of hands running through the hair, or hair landing on the face or body and the noise of the scissors can cause distress." A sudden jerk from the child could end badly as cutting hair requires the use of scissors after all. But some hairdressers are changing the way they cut hair to create a safe space for young autistic people and children.
Four-year-old Mason has autism and is non-verbal hated going to the hairdresser's as he found the experience traumatic; until he met James Williams at his barbershop in Briton Ferry. The barber would cut autistic kids' hair while sitting on the floor, on window sills, or even in the car. So Mason's folks decided to take him there. "I had to join him lying on my stomach," said Williams. "As a barber, it is unnatural to have that experience lying on the floor to cut hair as you are always supposed to stand by your chair doing it. The day that happened we were laughing on the floor doing it. Mason was just oblivious to everything, he was watching BBC News 15 seconds on repeat. But that was his day, another day it would have been different. He might not have let me near him on his next visit. I had all these families from across the world reaching out saying they went through the struggle."
The story went viral and even actors Ashton Kutcher and Michael Sheen ended up tweeting about it.
Williams noted, "Some hairdressers refuse to cut the hair of autistic children. That's because they will scream and respond badly, but I'm trying to get the message out there that they shouldn't turn them away. They just need to be treated differently. One of the biggest arguments I have with other hairdressers is when they make someone with autism sit in a chair to have their hair cut. But I'll cut a child's hair anywhere - lying on the floor, sitting on the sofa, sitting on the reception desk, on the windowsill, even in a car. I've learnt to listen to the child as well, if the child wants to go in the car I'll say 'let's go in the car then'. I try to pick up on the children's emotions. Any child I can see is getting to the point to having a melt-down I make a decision that is enough and we will try again next time. Or they will have a break and an opportunity to calm down."
Another barber in Ireland, Donncha O’Connell, helped cut an autistic 16-year-old's hair. Evan O’Dwyer, who is nonverbal, has been getting his hair cut by Donncha O’Connell at Baldy Barber in Blackpool for the past 14 years, reports FOX News . "He [has been] going to Donncha for the last 14 years but had issues on Monday, so he wasn’t going to sit in the barber’s chair and was getting very anxious and agitated," O’Dwyer’s mother, Deirdre O’Dwyer, told Yahoo . "The haircut had started, so we had to finish it." Since the teen feels safe and happy in the car, O’Connell followed him out and finished up in the car. O’Dwyer felt more relaxed and was seated comfortably with his brother, Dylan. His story was shared on Facebook with the caption: It's great when you have a brilliant barber and who totally understand autism and who will go to any lengths to make your child feel comfortable.
Many other barbers are following suit, and that's just heartwarming to see!
COVER IMAGE SOURCE: Facebook/ evan.odwyer.7