Even though sitting in a chair at a hairdresser’s may seem simple, for autistic children, haircuts can be quite the painful experience.
But, when there are people like James Williams and Donncha O’Connell, there’s hope. These barbers are welcoming children with special needs and cut their hairs with a lot of patience and do their best to make these children feel safe.
Why Are Haircuts so Painful for Autistic Children?
Very often, autistic children may find haircutting stressful due to the sensory challenges that take place, including the hands running through their hair and the noises from them feel unsafe.
But, getting a haircut is important for our hygiene and parents of autistic children worry a lot when there’s a thing as simple as a haircut to be done.
And, not every hairdresser is ready to take on this challenge. The child may not be able to sit calmly and the process can last very long. Plus, there’s the potential risk of an injury- the process of haircutting requires scissors and some sudden movements can cause injuries.
Kind Hairdressers Are Changing the World
But, there are those hairdressers with the skills, patience, and kindness to help these children with special needs.
Another barber, Donncha O’Connell, explains that they have several kids with special needs coming into their salon. O’Connell explains that if you’re relaxed around them, they don’t generally feel anxious.
For autistic child, 16-year-old Evan O’Dwyer, his safe place is the backseat of his mother’s car-he doesn’t just enjoy getting his hair cut there, but also eating and getting dressed.
When the teen didn’t want to get a haircut at the shop, O’Connell immediately grabbed his tools and followed the boy to the car. His kindness and warmth impressed the young boy. For the last 14 years, Evan has been coming to the same place.
The boy’s mother explains that there’s something beautiful about O’Connell-he’s so laidback and good.
The Story of James Williams
James Williams believes that hairdressers worldwide need to understand autism better. For him, learning more about these people changed his worldviews.
He owns a barber shop in Wales, Great Britain and explains that some hairdressers firmly refuse cutting the hair of autistic children as many of them tend to respond badly, screaming, yelling, etc.
But, he’s sending a message that they shouldn’t be rejected. He’s cut children’s hair in so many odd places- from the floor to the desk to a car and a windowsill. He’s been successful in this because he does his best to get in tune with the child’s feelings.
His regular client, 5-year-old boy Seb, has autism and was not very keen on getting his hair cut in the beginning. He would walk around the shop and James needed to follow him around and cut when he could.
But, today, the boy is sitting calmly in a chair and for the most part, he allows James to cut his hair.
Williams plans on making a map of hairdressers who warmly welcome children with autism and other special needs and to publish it online to ease families’ lives.