For most people, getting a haircut is nothing more than a quick stop by the barber shop or a trip to the salon for some pampering. Again, that's for most people. But how would you handle it if the feeling of water on your head, fingers running through your hair, or the sound of scissors opening and closing sent you into a panic due to sensory overload? Welcome to the experience of getting your haircut while Autistic.
In many cases, Autistic children are actually turned away from professional establishments due to how difficult it can be to perform something as simple as a quick trim.
The crying, screaming, and physical resistance often displayed by someone who is autistic is simply too much for a hairdresser to deal with. The thought of walking around following a client to offer them the best haircut they can get just isn't worth it.
That is, unless you're a barber like James Williams. Mr. Williams has found that the cure to this problem is just taking a new approach. Catering his technique to the needs of each client, Mr. Williams has had much success in this new way of doing things. Whether it's lying prone on the floor with a child that's watching videos on a tablet or moving his equipment out to the vehicle the client came in, it's all about allowing that person to feel as though they are still in their relative comfort zone. By easing the stress of the person getting their haircut and adjusting the response to any outbursts, the process has improved dramatically.
With the case of five-year-old Seb, who has severe Autism, getting his haircut was traumatic. Even his grandmother, a former hairdresser, couldn't do it without Seb's mother physically holding him while he screamed. Now, after Mr. Williams' tailored approach, Seb gets his haircut every 6 weeks instead of the every 3 months as it was before. Many people travel to Mr. Williams barber shop, some up to a 300 mile round trip, just to be able to offer their child a less stressful experience in an environment where the social acceptance of their child's behavior is no longer a concern.
Mr. Williams has started a charity called Autism Barbers Assemble in order to promote this new tailored approach in offering these clients a safe place. The charity is hosting an event that offers each client an hour-long session to get their haircut. There are a total of 12 barbers taking on 60 clients during this event, in which all proceeds will be directed to autism charities. Mr. Williams has stated that he would eventually like to be able to have a website featuring a map of establishments that would offer clients an experience such as the one he offers in his shop... someplace a person with Autism could go without feeling as though they are bothering other clients and can have this new patient, tailored approach. Hopefully, we'll see this new tactic accepted and employed by hairdressers across the globe.
Interested in learning more about autism and related topics, visit the Behavioral Health section of our blog.
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