Hopebridge Arranges a "Haircut Day" for Kids with Autism to Reach New Milestones
April 25, 2018
April 25, 2018
From locks of hair to tears of joy, there was a lot shed at Hopebridge Marion when the autism center recently hosted a special “Haircut Day” so the kiddos could go home with cool new ‘dos.
Like other activities that many of us take for granted, for families touched by autism, sitting in a salon or barbershop chair to get a haircut can be a stressful experience. New tools, shampoo sessions, blow dryers and sitting still for even a few minutes can be overwhelming. Hopebridge therapists are accustomed to working towards this milestone with learners who may have aversions, but Marion Clinic Manager Jayson McCord and Assistant Clinic Manager Carissa Hess wanted to take it a step further.
Take a minute to watch some of our ‘highlights’ of Hopebridge Haircut Day!
Jayson’s sister, Kayla McCord of Fades by Kayla in Kokomo, previously worked with kids with special needs during beauty school so she understands the battle and the necessary care. She jumped right on the opportunity when he brought it up to her, even offering her services for free.
“I know these parents struggle with what can be such a small thing and it can be tough to find someone willing to take the extra time to have this done,” said Kayla. “The kids were really great and I’m grateful I was able to take part in such a rewarding experience.”
THE PAMPERING EXPERIENCE
The event was set up to be as stress-free as possible to show the children that it does not have to be a negative experience. Understanding some of them would have more challenges than others, the team prepared everyone well in advance to ease nerves and spark excitement. It was a true exercise in meeting the children where they were on their individual journeys.
The sensory room proved to be the ideal location. It was quiet, plus had resources readily available for those who needed a little extra care or encouragement. The setting added another benefit of allowing the kids to receive the haircut wherever they were most comfortable…even if it meant sitting on a beanbag chair or Kayla finishing the cut on the floor with them. There was a device to watch and listen to all their favorite things, ranging from “Paw Patrol” to the alphabet song.
Planning was key, but it was also important to remain flexible. If they needed a break or wanted to sit elsewhere in the room, they did that. If anxious, they could hold the trimmers, comb and brush throughout the process to gain comfort. If one opted not to have a haircut at all, that was also ok.
PROJECT HAIRCUT WAS A HUGE SUCCESS
All of the children accomplished huge milestones in one way or another this day, but it was extra-special for one boy who received his first-ever haircut! His mother believed he would not have ever received one otherwise, and he had the best response when she came to pick him up: “all better.” You can bet that put smiles on her face…and the Hopebridge team’s.
Another was so excited to receive his new hairdo that he asked to have it earlier than scheduled. The team set up a countdown timer for him and he jumped up ready to go as soon as it went off.
The fun didn’t end with the haircuts themselves. Post-cut reinforcers included candy, a prize box, a photo of the children with a “successful haircut” sign and a ton of praise, of course.
Some parents were either so nervous or looking forward to it so much (or both!) that the therapists called them as soon as their kids finished. They were ecstatic picking up their children that day, and there were a few wet eyes when they saw them for the first time.
“If we can do one thing to make life a little easier for these families, we aim to make it happen. It brought me joy to see the relief and enthusiasm from parents when they saw their kiddos after their haircuts,” said Jayson. “Before this, some of the kiddos would only tolerate getting a few cuts of hair at a time, which resulted in them rarely getting a quality haircut. Seeing them with a nice, new style excited the entire Hopebridge team and parents.”