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To the Hairdresser Who Took an Extra Step for My Son With Autism

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little boy in carseat

I never expected the level of service you gave us. As a matter of fact, I was quite nervous when I called to schedule the appointment for my son. You see, we had just started going through the process for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) screening. And after his first haircut at your salon, I was prepared for the ultimate meltdown, especially since he is older and has an even harder time with change, noises, new people, etc. I explained this all to you when wanting to schedule his appointment and requested someone who has worked with children like him before.

You understood. You listened to every word I said. You sensed the worry and concern about the upcoming appointment in my voice. And then, you went over and beyond like I never would have dreamed.

I knew your salon opened at 10 in the morning, which is why I asked for the first appointment. I thought it wouldn’t be busy when you first opened, so it would be the best time to get him in.

But you knew what it’s really like when the doors open to your salon. You knew that wouldn’t be the case at all. And when you offered to open the doors 15 minutes early just to let us in, I’ll admit, I was taken aback. I immediately told you doing that just for us wasn’t necessary. You were calm in your response though, with a tone of understanding when you said you would love to do that for us.

You understood he wouldn’t handle it well with other people around, children playing, all the extra noises, and the constant coming and going. I knew you were serious about letting us in early, but you also understood my concern.

We showed up at 9:45 a.m., and you were ready. You asked if there was something that would help keep him distracted from the haircut. My son loves classical music. It’s the one thing that will calm him down, and since I knew you had Netflix available, I asked if you would be willing to have “Little Einstein” on. Without a word, you immediately went over to turn it on.

My son refused to sit in one of the cars you have in your salon for the children to sit in, so you didn’t push the issue. After asking if he would sit in my lap, you put a cover on me and asked if he would be OK without one. By that question, I knew you understood the struggle my son was currently going through.

He began to relax ever so slightly. He stopped fighting you with his squirming around and became comfortable enough to actually let you trim his hair with scissors as he started to focus in on Rocket from “Little Einstein.” Any time he began fidgeting, you encouragingly told him to “watch Rocket” and “where’s Rocket?” My nerves slid downwards to a level of calm I hadn’t experienced yet when taking him to a “new” place.

That was soon to change though, as your co-worker came in.

She noticed a little girl waiting outside with her mom in front of the door. There was still five minutes till your salon was scheduled to open, but she walked towards the door anyway. You saw her too. You asked her to wait the five minutes, but she refused. The door opened and the little girl came running in. She was quite excited about picking out a car to sit in, and my son instantly became agitated because of her excitement. His whole body tensed up, and he started squirming and fighting any time you would get close to his head.

You remained calm. You never once showed any frustration, instead asking ever so politely for the mom and her daughter to bring their voices down just a little bit, explaining only that my son doesn’t handle loud noises very well. While they didn’t heed your word, that didn’t deter you from continuing on with a level of patience and understanding I’ve yet to see in someone outside our close-knit family.

The environment became increasingly louder as a couple more children with their parents walked in. You were finishing up the last bit of strays as the first little girl started whining about how she wanted to watch “Scooby-Doo.” Your co-worker went to change it, but you quickly stopped her and asked that she wait, as “Little Einstein” was the one thing that had remained the same for my son throughout this appointment. She responded back insisting that because you were almost done, it would be fine. That’s when you instructed her to come over to us.

You gave her the explanation of how my son was going through the screening process for autism and how he wasn’t doing well with all the noises and such, which is why you allowed us to come in early. You asked her to be respectful of this last request and wait until we left before changing the show to “Scooby-Doo.” I could tell she didn’t agree, but I was thankful she decided to respect your wishes.

That haircut appointment was like no other. You went over and beyond my expectations. You understood my son’s need for limited distractions and noise. You understood my worry and concern as his mom and the fight I had expected to take place. While he tensed up and fidgeted at various times, he never did melt down. You were patient when he wiggled around, and you understood how to work with him so he wouldn’t focus on the fact that you were extremely close to his head. Without prompting, you stated how you would not use the razor because you knew the noise and vibration would definitely irritate and set him off. (You instantly became my hero when you said that!) You didn’t push him to eat the animal cookies you tried to give to him.

Instead you gave him patience. You gave him space to ease into the situation. You tried to get your co-worker to understand the reasoning beyond your requests. You were encouraging to both my son and myself. You were a professional. You were a professional who wasn’t doing this job for herself, but for others. You were a difference for my son (and his ever worrying mother) and for that… I thank you. I won’t ever forget you or your exceptional level of service. As a matter of fact, I’ll be back. I’ll be back with my son when you finish the room reserved for children with special needs. And I’ll be sure to request you for his next haircut.

Originally published: July 25, 2016
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