One of the first steps in breaking down barriers between different groups of people is understanding how certain aspects of society are unbalanced to benefit one group over another. For example, those of us who do not have autism have to understand how many everyday tasks, like going grocery shopping or going to the movies or getting a haircut, are not necessarily designed with those with disabilities in mind. One barber in Connecticut has noticed this imbalance, and is taking action to not only educate himself, but all barbers and cosmetologists interested in learning more about autism and how to accomodate for it.
Eddie Rivera is the owner of New Style Hair Salon in Meriden, Connecticut. He has been certified to work with children on the spectrum, and is in the process of developing his own Special Needs Training Course. He decided to earn the certification when he noticed parents of children with autism in his area struggling to be seen by local hairdressers. “I started seeing a lot of parents get denied when they walked in the barbershop, a lot of single parents, and my mom was a single parent, so, it touched my heart,” he told News8. “I wanted to be able to help those parents.”
Rivera feels that the most important step is creating a relationship between himself and his clients with autism. “I always meet the client, happy, excited, compliment them, build their confidence,” he explained. Since getting his certification, Rivera has noticed how he made his hair salon that much more accessible to families in his community, and he wanted to spread that accessibility even further. “I created a program alongside a clinical social worker that will teach you things about accommodating, strategies,” he continued.
Through partnering with a cosmetology school, Rivera is able to create instructional videos in his own hair salon, which will be part of his online program. “My goal is to make this mandatory for all cosmetology and barbers who will have to go through this training course, so, we can make the community of special needs more comfortable and accepted.”
Part of Rivera’s accomodations includes ear protectors that not only add an extra layer of safety to the haircut, but also diminish the sound of the razor for those with sensory sensitivity. He also suggests weighted vests and soothing toys for other sensory issues.
Steve Chaparro, a barber who works at Rivera’s salon, is benefiting from Rivera’s new program. “Anybody that walks in here – I can’t just assume they’re going to be fine with what I’m doing so communication is key in this business. The most important thing I’ve learned, honestly, is patience and everyone’s different,” Chaparro remarked.
Rivera’s new online program is set to launch within the next month. If you’d like to help fund research and therapy for children with autism, consider purchasing one of our Autism Awareness products! Each purchase allows you to spread awareness, increase acceptance and show your support, all while donating to a great cause.Whizzco