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Hairdressers who go to incredible lengths for their clients with autism

Donncha O’Connell

Evan O Dwyer | Facebook | Fair Use

Cerith Gardiner - published on 11/09/19

One empathetic stylist, Donncha O'Connell, gets into tight spaces to serve one of his customers.

One thing many parents of children with autism appreciate is how tricky it can be to get their child’s hair cut. It’s a sensory experience that can be both upsetting and even dangerous — especially with sharp scissors so near the head. As a result, some kind hairdressers have tried to adjust their techniques as much as possible to accommodate more vulnerable clients.

By taking the time to reassure autistic kids, or trying to make the haircut a calmer experience, hairdressers are really trying to help the children and their parents. Recently, one big-hearted hairdresser, Donncha O’Connell, took his skills to a whole new level for his 16-year-old client, Evan O’Dwyer.

Evan loves to sit in the back of his mom’s car; it’s where he feels safe. In fact, he loves the safety of the backseat so much that he even eats and gets dressed there sometimes. Thanks to O’Connell’s empathy, patience, and desire to help Evan’s mom, Deirdre, he also gets his hair cut inside his “safe place” from time to time.

As O’Connell shared with, he is completely flexible with his teenage client, who’s been going to him for 14 years. “I’ve never cut anyone’s hair in the back of the car. (It’s) not a huge deal. Obviously, it’s a big thing for Deirdre. You do what you have to do.”

This thought has been echoed by fellow hairdresser James Williams. He’s trying to spread the word among the haircutting community — who are often reluctant to cut the hair of autistic children for fear of their reactions and potential injuries — that hairdressers must think outside of the chair.

Williams is willing to follow his young clients around the salon, sit on desks, window sills, or in the car, just like O’Connell. And his flexibility is paying off. Williams shared how he first started cutting 5-year-old Seb’s hair by following him around the salon. Now Seb will sit in the chair and have his hair cut, albeit begrudgingly sometimes.

The patience and incredible kindness of O’Connell and Williams are a great example for hairdressers everywhere, and a huge comfort to their clients and their families.


Read more:
The hairdresser who serves kids with sensory processing disorders


Read more:
Pope urges hair stylists to avoid gossiping, with saint’s help


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