On any given day, hair salons have layer upon layer of shapes and sounds. Snip-its in Bellevue is a cut above: the new kids’ salon trains its stylists to work with children on the autism spectrum.
“She hears all the noises as one giant noise. She sees all the colors as very bright and vibrant – and very overwhelming,” mom Joanna Kresge said.
Kresge, of Auburn, brought her 5-year-old daughter Paige to Snip-its. Paige has severe autism, is non-verbal and also has a sensory processing disorder.
Stephanie Pesterfield, of Tampa, Fl., has a son with a similar condition. She posted a YouTube video of her son flinching and melting down during a haircut.
“It’s not only the touch that’s hurting him, but it’s also the sound,” Pesterfield said. “We usually go three to four to five months without cutting his hair, because it’s just a very stressful process.”
Pesterfield says she tried taking her son to a salon once, but he would not sit in the chair.
Paige’s mom hoped her daughter's first time to Snip-its would be different from other salons.
“Sometimes she'll get violent. She may scratch. She may bite herself. Just because once people start getting close to her face, she starts to get worked up. She doesn't like people in her bubble,” Kresge said.
Snip-its manager and stylist Shane Fossett says the salon teamed with organization Autism Speak to come up with a five step program.
“You can't just start cutting their hair. You have to talk to them about it and say, this is what we're going to do,” Fossett said, explaining the steps:
1. Welcome: greet the child at eye-level
2. Get them comfortable: put their feet on the chair’s bar
3. Make it fun: using games, music or tablets
4. Show them the tools
Fossett says the steps lead to successful haircuts roughly 80 percent of the time. If it doesn’t, she says the child and their parents do not have to pay for that appointment, and are welcome to come back another time to complete the haircut.
Kresge says it is important not to give up.
“We have to keep bringing her to places like this and getting her out in the world because she’s going to have to be in the world," Kresge said. "So it’s a great experience for her to be here, and whether it goes well, doesn’t go well, we just keep trying.”
Snip-its is having a grand opening celebration on March 25 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Crossroads Market Stage in Bellevue.