Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), also called Autism Spectrum Condition, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by deficits in social communication and interaction, and repetitive or restricted patterns of behaviors, interests, or activities, which can include hyper- and hypo-reactivity to sensory input.
Autism is a spectrum disorder, because it can manifest very differently in each person. For example, some autistic people are non-verbal, while some have a vocabulary that rivals well-seasoned public speakers. Some may be sensitive to loud noises, while others are comforted.
Psychiatry has traditionally classified autism as a mental disorder, while the autism rights movement and a small but increasing number of researchers and mental health professionals see it as part of neurodiversity – the natural diversity in human thinking and experience, with strengths, weaknesses, and differences. From this point of view, autistic people still have a disability but instead of being “cured,” they should be accommodated.
Prior to 2013, ASD was found under the category of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder. There were, at that time, several diagnoses for autism under this “umbrella” like Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD), Kanner’s Syndrome and Not Otherwise Specified (NOS). However, in 2013 a new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-V) was released, and a “spectrum” approach was taken, and it became more restrictive, meaning fewer people now qualify for diagnosis. Now, ASD is the diagnosis, and the other versions no longer exist.
Treatment and therapies are now detailed to each specific person and help to address the issues that affect the autistic person. Previously, many therapies and treatments had a “one size fits most” kind of approach.
Here at Wild Styles, we understand that every child is different, especially those with sensory disorders and/or autism. Therefore, the way we approach the child and how we take the journey through getting a haircut ranges from child to child. What worked for one, may not work for another. We always start every haircut by getting to know the child and their family better than the time before. Building an actual relationship with the child and their family is key to the future success of making haircuts enjoyable for an autistic child.
Next, with the knowledge we learn, we can start to tailor the haircut experience to the child. Favorite toys, colors, TV shows, songs, topics of conversation, etc., all play a factor. We have TVs at every station, tablets they can play with, sensory toys, tons of colors of combs and capes for them to choose from, and even a weighted blanket.
We also teach the child about what tools we use and how they work. If the tool is safe enough for them to touch – we let them touch it. We also have them watch us in the mirror so they can see the process unfold. Sometimes we use a “book” we created that has things they can touch and photos of all the steps of a haircut and what we do.
Even with everything we have available to try, sometimes nothing works. Sometimes, an autistic kid just needs to express their fear and discomfort and have a bit of a “meltdown.” That is perfectly fine. It is never a problem or embarrassment if you end up leaving without a haircut. What is important, is that you bring them back to us to try again! The way a child responds to a haircut is usually all over the place – one time they are freaking out and the next, they act as if they have been doing it forever. This is common and always expected.
We just want parents and caregivers to know that we will do what it takes to get your child to the finish line. Learning to adapt to the sights and sounds of a haircut are a sensory overload and take time. Think of it as a long-distance run, not a sprint. We also want you to know that while you are here with us, there is no need to feel ashamed, embarrassed, overwhelmed, stressed, frustrated, alone, lost or concerned. We completely understand and are here for you and your child. We are an all-inclusive, safe space and strive to keep it that way. We support our clients and will stand up to make sure the kids that come here are safe, respected, cared for and treated kindly and fairly. When you are here, you and your family, are at home!
© 2016 Wild Styles Children's Hair Salon.