TAMPA, Fla. -- Haircuts can be a traumatizing experience for kids with autism. The sound of a trimmer or the feeling of hair tumbling down their neck is enough to send them over the edge.
"I guess for some people, it may seem like a tantrum or they’re just being bratty but for a lot of them it is a big deal," said KaShante Whitaker, whose 9-year-old son Brayln is on the autism spectrum. "He hates haircuts."
it iss to the point Brayln only gets one when its absolutely necessary. Whitaker says it is becoming easier to handle certain situations as a mother as her sone gets older.
"My personality, I was built for this," Whitaker said smiling. "It’s something that’s not hard for me."
But for businesses and other families, it can be a difficult experience.
That is why Jessica Gibbons, the manager at Heritage Club Barber Shop, is teaming up with the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) at the University of South Florida by opening their arms to kids like Brayln.
Gibbons says they are training every stylist on how to communicate and interact with autism who have autism, even giving children distraction packs to take their mind off the haircut.
"I wanted to present that we are an understanding business," said Gibbons. "It comes with the squishy toys, and fidget spinners, and fidget cubes," talking about the distraction pack.
Mindy Stevens the Director of CARD says they are listing "autism friendly" businesses. Whitaker hopes even more join in.
"Each child on the spectrum is different, child to child is different and this child with autism you see is not the same as the next one," Whitaker said. " I’d like other businesses to take a step in that same direction. Be more inclusive. Including our children in different events or even their normal day-to-day events."
Stylists will be cutting hair of kids with autism on Monday, November 13 from 9:00 am until 7:00 p.m. Haircuts are 20 dollars for a child under the age of 12.
If you can not make it on Monday, the experience and training will carry over from here on out. Click here to learn more about Monday's event at Heritage Club and click here to schedule an appointment.