In a heartwarming video posted by BBC Family and Education News, barber James Williams shares about how he dedicates one day in a week to cut the hair of autistic children. He calls it ‘Autism Sundays’.
In Singapore, according to Autism Resource Centre (ARC) Singapore, even though there have been no accurate studies conducted in the country to establish exact prevalence rates here, it is likely that based on prevalence rates worldwide, the figure will be in the region of 1 % of the total population.
One of the tips that James Williams, also known as Jim the Trim, gave to cut the hair of children who are diagnosed with autism is to find an allocated time for it.
He dedicates ‘Autism Sundays’ with one-hour appointments and makes sure the shop is quiet so that the children can enjoy a stress-free environment.
The second tip he suggested is to treat each child with autism as an individual.
“When you meet one child with autism, you have only met one child with autism,” he said.
“Everyday can be a different experience. Think outside the box,” he said, noting that people can do simple things like counting each snip with the child.
James third tip is the difference between using scissors and clippers.
He said that when a clipper touches the head and onto the scalp of the child, it feels “like having a tattoo, like a thousand pins hitting the skin”.
“We have pain as an adult, so imagine what it feels like for a kid,” he said.
The fourth tip is to never force a child to sit on a chair.
He noted that the difference with an autistic child is that you have to work around them.
“Let a child have freedom. Work around the child. Don’t make them work around you,” he said.
James final tip is to always remember to prepare and communicate with the child.
He said that preparation is about making the child aware of coming for a haircut, which means knowing where the child is going and who is cutting his/her hair. Communication, on the other hand, is about interacting with the child and telling them what you are going to do next.
“It could be from eye contact or some other visual point,” he said.
According to Autism Speaks, autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. There is not just one type of autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.
The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism.
Autism’s most obvious signs tend to appear between two and three years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Some developmental delays associated with autism can be identified and addressed even earlier.