PARENTS

Teen With Autism Just Got His 1st Haircut And It Was Worth The Wait

There are so many potential challenges.

07/27/2017 14:35 EDT | Updated 07/27/2017 14:35 EDT
Kate Wells

For Peterborough, Ont.'s Kate and Jason Wells, witnessing their 14-year-old son Aidan get his haircut at a salon for the first time ever was a moment they will cherish forever — one they had built up to for years.

While for most of us a haircut is no big deal, for the Wells family it's everything. Aidan has autism, and for those on the spectrum, sensory issues are very common. The sounds of the clippers, the fear of scissors, the feel of the cape, sitting in a strange chair in a strange place — they are all potential triggers which could set Aidan off.

Haircuts are notoriously challenging for individuals on the spectrum.

"Sometimes people talk too much or too quickly, or give too many instructions, which for Aidan is confusing and too much input," his mom Kate tells PTBOCanada. "Haircuts are notoriously challenging for individuals on the spectrum."

Indeed, when Aidan was a toddler, Kate would have to cut his hair while he slept because it was so traumatic for him. There was a time when nobody could even touch his head.

Kate Wells

Things have progressed, but a haircut was still a very difficult chore for Aidan.

"Jason would have to sit on the floor... with Aidan in his lap, while Jason wrapped his arms around him, hugging him to provide some comforting deep pressure and to try and keep his hands clear of the scissors," Kate tells PTBOCanada.

The last several years have gotten better, as Kate and Jason would script "first haircut, then Lego" for Aidan, a reward for a job well done.

The ingredients, if you will, had to be perfect to make this recipe work. If not, this could be the perfect storm.

Which all built up to the magical moment this week. Their due diligence for taking Aidan to a real hairdresser involved carefully looking at every salon and their various attributes: the easy access for quick entry and exit (if needed), flexibility, compassion, the stylist's demeanour, the atmosphere, few stairs and easy parking out front of the salon.

The ingredients, if you will, had to be perfect to make this recipe work. If not, this could be the perfect storm.

Their research lead them to Sparrows Hair Studio in Peterborough and to co-owner/stylist Adam Murray.

Handsome fella. @tasteofinkptbo 📸@bryanreid

A post shared by Sparrows Hair Studio (@sparrows.hair.studio) on


The family has a comfort level with Adam, as Kate has known him since she was a teenager, and Jason already gets his hair cut there. But what sealed the deal — and the experiment — was Adam offering to have the family come after the salon was closed for the day.

"We were able to come into a quiet salon, with some cool music playing on the record player which Aidan loved," Kate tells PTBOCanada.

"As we approached the salon, his excitement for a haircut at a salon turned to anxiety and we thought it wouldn't likely happen, or would end in a meltdown. All of those worries faded the moment Adam came to greet us in a warm, welcoming, calm manner. Aidan was immediately eased."

Kate Wells

Without Adam's demeanour with Aidan before and after he sat in the chair, none of this would have been possible.

"I have always admired his big heart, patience and happy, positive disposition," Kate says of Adam. "Jason, Emma [his younger sister] and I were in tears watching him work his magic. He spoke to Aidan, not around him. He explained what he was doing — prepared him for the different noises of each clipper he used. He was quick to praise, quick to work, precise and efficient."

He spoke to Aidan, not around him.

So often, people will default to Jason and Kate when Aidan is around rather than speaking to him. But not Adam. He had a real conversation with the teen, and the Wells family was merely in the background, in awe of this magical moment.

Kate Wells

Aidan not only loved Adam (and his beard and tattoos), but also was even more proud of himself for getting his first ever cut in a salon. He is now even more excited to show off his awesome haircut to his friends and family.

This was a big step for Jason and Kate and Emma to witness, but an even bigger one for Aidan to accomplish.

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