NEWS
10/25/2017 14:13 EDT | Updated 10/28/2017 15:23 EDT

Quebec barber who went extra mile for autistic client invited to Parliament

MONTREAL — A Quebec barber who got down on the floor to trim the hair of a young client with autism was applauded in Canada's Senate chamber Wednesday, several weeks after a photo of him garnered worldwide attention.

Francis "Franz" Jacob was invited to Ottawa by Sen. Marie-Francoise Megie for the Senate's autism awareness day.

Jacob, 45, made headlines last month for a photo that showed him lying on the floor of his Rouyn-Noranda shop as he cut the hair of a six-year-old boy named Wyatt.

He explained to The Canadian Press at the time that Wyatt doesn't usually sit still for haircuts so he bought a pair of wireless clippers in order to follow him around.  

Megie invited Jacob and Wyatt's mother, Fauve Lafreniere, to meet with her and participate in a panel discussion on autism.

They also visited an autism resource fair, lunched with Megie and were acknowledged in the Senate chamber.

Jacob, who owns an old-fashioned barber shop in Rouyn-Noranda, about 600 kilometres northwest of Montreal, said being invited to Parliament was "a huge honour."

"I have my small shop, but receiving an invitation from your government to speak your mind about what you realize and what you did, and receiving some recognition, is quite a feeling," he said in a phone interview. 

"I've never been that proud in my life of being Canadian."

Jacob says he's received thousands of messages from around the world ever since the photo of him lying on the ground next to Wyatt was widely shared on social media sites.

Despite having no formal training, he says he's developed a technique that seems to work for children with autism and other special needs.

That includes scheduling them at the end of the day so he can take his time and moving around the shop with them until they feel comfortable.

"You can't make decisions for those children, it has to be them who decide," he said.

Lafreniere, who accompanied Jacob to Ottawa, said she used the visit as an opportunity to discuss the need for more services for children with special needs.

"What came out the most often was the amount of time it takes to get a diagnosis, and the time we lose before being able to help them because it's really long," she said.

She describes Wyatt as a curious boy who loves to learn and play, and who sometimes needs a different approach.

Lafreniere said she originally posted the picture online to thank Jacob and to let him know he made a difference in her life.

"I never thought people would react to that extent," she said.