With extra training for stylists and helpful guides for parents, the chain makes haircuts easier for children on the autism spectrum.
by Christina Elston
For parents of a child on the autism spectrum, little things that other families take for granted – things like a simple haircut – can be a real challenge. Children with autism can find the sights and sounds of a hair salon, the feel of someone combing their hair, or the idea of scissors cutting their hair overwhelming.
And parents can dread the “looking and pointing” that often takes place if a child acts out, says hair stylist Kimberely Minor. At the El Segundo salon where Minor works, this isn’t an issue.
It’s part of the Snip-its chain of kids’ hair salons, and specializes in working with children with autism and other types of special needs. Minor and the other Snip-its stylists go through what she calls “an intense training program” that’s highly effective in helping them make haircuts manageable for these children. One regular client who wouldn’t let stylists even touch him two years ago now asks his parents to bring him to Snip-its, she says.
The Snip-its website, www.snipits.com, features video about the Snip-its experience, a hair cutting training guide for parents and stylists, and even a visual schedule parents can use to prepare their child for a salon visit – all created in collaboration with Autism Speaks. The guide contains lots of helpful suggestions, including:
• Speak with the salon manager about having a visit in advance of the haircut to familiarize your child with the environment.
• Schedule your appointment during a time when the salon is least busy.
• Identify a reward item your child can earn after successfully completing a haircut – or after taking steps leading up to a haircut. Have a photo of the item on hand as a reminder for your child.
The salons themselves, with SoCal locations in El Segundo and Encino, are designed to turn a haircut into an adventure. The décor features vibrant colors and Snip-its own cartoon characters including Snips the scissors and Curly Comb the comb. Each cutting station includes a chair where parents can sit close at hand, and an entertainment station featuring custom computer games and activities for kids.
Minor’s favorite part of the Snip-its experience, though, comes at the end. “After all the challenges during the haircuts,” she says, “seeing kids take the Adventure Pass to the Magic Box to get their prize, and the proud parent looking on as they celebrate the child getting a haircut – it is priceless.”