For a person with autism, sitting still during the strange sounds and sensations of a haircut can be a truly difficult task. For a cosmetologist, giving a haircut to someone with sensory issues who has trouble sitting for a haircut can also be troublesome, especially if they have no training or experience working with someone on the autism spectrum.
Barber Eddie Rivera says this is the exact reason why he’s creating a course for cosmetologists to learn how to work with people with autism. He says he’s often seen kids with autism being turned away from barbershops and beauty salons just because of their disorder, and he doesn’t want that to happen to them anymore. It’s a very personal mission for him.
“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. I wanted to be able to help those parents,” says Eddie.
Inspired by this issue, Eddie, now the owner of New Style Hair Salon, began creating a training course for cosmetologists to help them learn some ways to help people on the autism spectrum. He has partnered with a cosmetology school to disseminate his instructional videos and tips to aspiring cosmetologists.
“I created a program alongside a clinical social worker that will teach you things about accommodating, strategies,” he explains.
Eddie says it all starts with just being friendly and creating a bond with the client. “I always meet the client, happy, excited, compliment them, build their confidence,” he says.
Beyond that, it’s about walking in the client’s shoes and thinking about their needs. Steve Chaparro, a barber who has benefited from Eddie’s course, explains, saying that things like weighted vests and soothing toys can help those with sensory issues:
“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,” he says. “The most important thing I’ve learned, honestly, is patience and [that] everyone’s different.”
Eddie is certified to work with kids on the spectrum. He hopes to make his course a requirement for all people going through cosmetology or barber school so that fewer people with autism will be turned away from hair salons and more of them will have good experiences with haircuts in the future.
Check out the video below to see Eddie in action and learn more about his program.Whizzco