Autism and visiting the Barber

My wife is a customer of a very popular local salon and spa.  Many women-about-town make appointments  at this particular salon to get their hair cut and colored, get their nails done, get a massage, etc.  My wife’s bridal party got their hair done there the day of our wedding.  My mother-in-law has also used this particular salon for many, many years and the owners have become quite friendly with our family.

I get my hair cut by a guy named Sal who has the second chair in a local barbershop.  I have been going to this particular barber  for many years.  No one recommended him to me.  I chose this barber shop because it was close to home, because no appointments are necessary and because (usually) no one makes fun of my haircut after I get one.   I suppose that if I had thought about it a few years ago, I would have imagined MJ getting his hair cut by my barber.  My boy would be sitting straight and tall in the chair. I’d sit back nodding approvingly, looking up from the most recent copy of Sports Illustrated or Esquire or Popular Mechanics  or (you get the idea).   Of course, it hasn’t worked out that way.

MJ now gets his hair cut by the woman who colors the hair of his mother and grandmother.  This has been the case for about six years, since he was two years old.  He became a salon-and-spa-boy when we realized how difficult it would be for him to sit still in a chair and tolerate anyone coming at his head with sharp objects.  As much as I like Sal, I’m not sure that he would have the patience or reflexes necessary to cut hair from a constantly moving target.

Even at the salon, our success has been mixed.  However, it offers a number of distinct  advantages over Sal’s shop:

1)  We are able to make appointments for haircuts.  Usually, we can even make them before the shop opens officially.  No waiting and no stares from other patrons when the kicking and screaming starts.

2) We have the luxuries of time and space.  Because no other customers are in the salon, MJ does not necessarily need to be confined to a single chair while getting his hair cut.   He can take frequent breaks including a stroll out to the waiting area mid-haircut if it helps him to calm down.  He’s now too big to sit on my lap, but he is actually doing better at standing still while he is being sheared.  Usually, I will sit in the chair and keep MJ standing still by holding both of his wrists.   Sometimes, he will sit appropriately in the chair for short periods of time.  In the past, I had to  wrap my legs around his and hold both of his shoulders firmly with my hands.   (Note:  The fact that he now requires less restraint  is a small victory worthy of celebration).

3).   The Salon and Spa proprietors will do whatever it takes to help. They are extremely understanding of our situation and have taken a direct interest in helping MJ to better tolerate haircuts.   A while back, they helped us to assemble a social story by taking several pictures of their shop (exterior and interior) as well as many of the people who work there.   They would probably come to our home to cut his hair, but our preference is to work with them to increase MJ’s comfort level in a more public setting.

I remain optimistic that Sal will be cutting MJ’s hair before he decides to retire.  In the meantime, we look forward to many more small victories over at the salon.

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Eric Jager
Producing a conference on disability and employment
Eric Jager

Eric Jager

Producing a conference on disability and employment

0 thoughts on “Autism and visiting the Barber

  • Thanks for the comments.

    Yes, they are a very nice bunch of people.  We will be working on having him sit in the chair very soon.  We are receiving ABA-based parent training through our district and our trainer will be coming with us for MJ’s next hair cut.

  • Very heartening. Not just the salon but you concentrating on the positive with your son too. 

    You write very well, 


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