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To the Hairdresser Who Helped My Son on the Autism Spectrum

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They say we affect the universe even when we move a finger. Everything we do has an impact. Anything others do to us has an effect. We are all the product of each other’s actions and our lives are intertwined in ways we might not even know. That is the reason why I insist on being kind to everyone we come across because our kindness can turn an ordinary day extraordinary. This time my son and I were at the receiving end of this kindness, and that, too, in the most unexpected situation.

I love long hair on my son, but I love it even more when I get his hair trimmed and suddenly I see his twinkling eyes all round and bright that were peeping from behind his mane a while ago. However, this joy is entirely one-sided, because a trip to the hairdresser is no walk in the park for my son.

The hair dryers, clippers, trimmers, scissors, the apron they put on him, the holding his head down — there are too many things that make him extremely anxious and uncomfortable. Going to the hairdresser is an ordeal and we really plan ahead as a family for this trip. We always ensure both my husband and I are there, we have extra clothes packed in case my son throws up out of nervousness and we carry some distractions like his iPad and some fidget toys to keep him distracted.

This trip was not supposed to be any different. It was one of those “deal days” at the salon and it was rather busy, even at an odd time of the day. The wait in a crowded room and the hum and buzz around him had already pushed our son to the edge. When he was called in he resisted, and it was only after some convincing that he finally sat on the chair. I introduced him, I explained his sensory issues and other challenges — a routine I’ve learned to follow over the years as it makes things less complicated.

The hairdresser seemed nice. Like many people who have not worked with an autistic child but don’t want to do something “wrong,” she was cautious and careful, like she was working with hot glass while standing on egg shells. My son was already nervous and was trying to jump off the chair. In between trying to sit him still, distract him and cut his hair , it was complete chaos — like always.

It was then this lady, Terry,  who had checked us in walked up to us and held my son’s hand. She knelt on the floor and gestured the hairdresser to pause. She talked to my son in very gentle whispers, rubbing his palms, reassuring him and singing rhymes to him. I could see she was rusty with the rhymes, but she tried and laughed softly every time she messed up the lyrics. We could see a smile slowly sweeping across our son’s face. He felt safe with his hands firmly secure in his new friend’s hands. Unlike all our previous visits, we were no longer trying to hold our son’s head in place, or hug him tight to hold him down. He was not stressed anymore.

As the hairdresser quickly and swiftly resumed her job, some of this magic brushed off on her, too, and she felt more at ease. She was now also singing to my son while Terry sat there talking to him, keeping him not just distracted but also engaged. The iPad seemed useless against the magic she was weaving with her words and actions. I could see Terry covered from head to toe in my son’s hair, still smiling that charming smile, still greeting her customers, still comforting my son. Not a frown on her face.

Before we knew, we were done. This time it did not seem like an ordeal and these 10 minutes did not feel like an hour. It all felt like a gentle breeze that brushed past us and left us refreshed. Those 10 minutes taught us the beauty of kindness.

Sometimes all it takes is a warm hug, a reaching hand, a genuine smile and a wonderful heart to make a day extraordinary. Life is made up of these beautiful, grateful moments. The rest is just frills, like a glass of martini with a fancy stirrer, good to look at but it’s the martini that keeps you going, not the stirrer. Thanks Terry for adding another glass of martini to my life!

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Thinkstock image by Oleksandr Hrytsiv

Originally published: June 8, 2017
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