Meleri Thomas from the National Autistic Society explains that autistic children don’t like having their hair cut because of “sensory challenges” related to the condition.
Having someone touch their hair or feeling someone’s hands on their face or body causes extreme distress. The sound of the scissors is unacceptable, too.
Parents with autistic children struggle to get their child’s hair cut.
Autistic children show the following behaviors as explained by the UK National Health Service:
- React negatively when someone asks them to do something
- They are unaware of others’ personal space and don’t tolerate when other people enter their personal space either
- Autistic children stick to a familiar routine and get upset whenever you introduce a change
These are the biggest issues parents have when taking their child to a hairdresser of choice. Regular haircuts take about 15-20 minutes, but autistic children have hard time sitting still in a chair that long.
Hairdressers have hard time too, mostly because they use scissors. Even the slightest move could lead to an injury. This risk and all the difficulties hairdressers deal with are probably the reason why they tend to turn away autistic children.
Well, that’s not the case with every hairdresser. Some have all the patience in this world, and treat autistic children with lots of love and kindness.
Donncha O’Connell says there are a few kids with special needs who use their services. According to O’Connell, autistic children don’t have a problem if you are relaxed while doing your job.
Evan O’Dwyer, 16, has autism, and he doesn’t like leaving his safe places. One of these places is the backseat of his mom’s car. Evan enjoys eating his meal and getting dressed there.
The boy didn’t want to get his hair cut in the shop, so O’Connell came up with an incredible idea. He took his tools, and cut his hair in the backseat. His kindness and warmth made Evan really happy.
“Evan for the last 14 years has gone back to the same place,” said Evan’s mother, Deirdre. “I just found there was something about Donncha. He’s so laid back. He’s so good.”
O’Connell has never had a similar experience, but he didn’t have any problems with Evan. Cutting someone’s hair in the backseat of a car? Of course, as long as it makes that person happy. This gesture was a big deal for Evan’s mom, and O’Connell did what he had to do.
Apparently, Evan decides where and when he wants to get his haircut, and they stick to his “rules.”
James (Jim) Williams wants barbers and hairdressers to give autistic children a chance. They need to understand autism. For him, it changed his aspect of the world.
Williams is an owner of a barber shop in Wales, Great Britain.
“Some hairdressers refuse to cut the hair of autistic children,” he said. “That’s because they will scream and respond badly, but I’m trying to get the message out there that they shouldn’t be turned away.
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.”
Williams has cut a child’s hair lying on the floor, sitting on a desk or on a windowsill, and yes, in a car. He just tries to pick up on the client’s emotions.
Seb, 5, is one of his clients. They had a hard time getting the job done at the beginning. The first time Claire took her son to the barbershop, Williams walked alongside the boy and cut his hair whenever the situation allowed him to move with his scissors.
Today, Seb sits in a chair and uses his iPad while Williams is doing his hair.
Williams is working on a map of hairdressers where autistic children can get their hair done. Once finished, he will publish it online.