Want to make your hair salon autism-friendly? These tips will help you create a sensory-friendly environment where autistic clients feel safe and calm while getting a haircut.
Haircuts are a routine activity for many of us, typically occurring every one-to-two months. While similar standard appointments such as dentist check-ups may make us feel unpleasant, it is likely that if you’re neurotypical, you find going to the hairdresser a relaxing and positive experience. However, this is not the case for everyone.
Children and adults with autism can find haircuts distressing – sometimes to the point where the activity feels like an ordeal. Despite these challenges, there are several things you can do to make autistic clients feel safe and calm while getting a haircut. As an autistic adult, here are my tips on how to make your hair salon autism-friendly.
Why Hair Salons Can Be Stressful Places for Autistic People
Many autistic people have sensory issues that can make the scents, sounds, and bright lights of a salon an uncomfortable environment. They may also be uneasy with person-to-person contact, both direct touch and the sensations they experience during the use of key equipment such as scissors.
I am autistic and I dreaded getting a haircut as a child. There were too many people around, and everything was too loud, especially the hair dryers. I’m so glad people like you are here now reading this and wanting to make salons more welcoming to people like me.
Autism-Friendly Hair Salon Tips
Offer pre-visits for autistic clients
Everyone feels anticipatory anxiety before certain new ventures, whether that be an unfamiliar journey or giving a presentation at work. Usually, this is grounded in a fear of the unknown. Offering your autistic clients the chance to visit the salon before their appointment allows them to familiarize themselves with the setting which should help to minimize appointment-day jitters.
Make it easy for autistic clients to schedule their appointments
Using a hair appointment app can simplify the process of scheduling and managing visits for clients with autism. This technology allows clients to easily book their appointments at a time that suits them best, reducing anxiety and ensuring a smooth salon experience.
Talk through the process and explain each element to autistic clients
Similarly to the theory of a pre-visit, talking through the process with your autistic client before beginning the haircut will mitigate any fears of the unknown. Demonstrate the equipment you will use, from clippers and scissors to the hairdryer and hairbrush.
Ensure a quiet atmosphere to prevent sensory overload
Typically, someone with autism will feel more comfortable in a quiet atmosphere. Too many sounds, smells, and bright lights can trigger sensory overload or even a meltdown. Small but effective steps that you can take to create a quiet environment include turning down the volume of background music and booking the appointment for a time when there are few others in the salon.
Allow extra time for the appointment
Haircuts with autistic clients are likely to take longer than usual appointments, especially initially. Make sure to allow plenty of extra time for the appointment so that it is peaceful from beginning to end.
Use quieter hair dryers and other equipment to create a sensory-friendly hair salon experience
If you are able to, you could invest in special equipment such as calming clippers and professional hair dryers that operate more quietly than traditional models. The reduced noise will likely make the haircut much less unpleasant for your autistic clients.
Provide earplugs to make your salon more autism-friendly
While many autistic hair salon clients will bring their own noise-canceling earplugs, having some cheap disposable foam earplugs on hand is a good idea in case a client forgets theirs or finds the environment surprisingly stressful.
From puzzles and magazines to toys, it might help to provide entertainment for the appointment. This can help to keep your client distracted during the haircut. You could encourage clients to bring their own favorite fidget toys and puzzles from home, and also buy a supply of low-cost sensory-friendly toys to keep on hand.
Remember each client is unique
Lastly and most importantly, remember that each client is unique. As the saying goes, when you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person. Always ask what your neurodivergent client needs and aim to deliver that as far as possible to create a welcoming and tranquil mood for their haircut.
What makes a hair salon autism-friendly for you?
Share your experience with our community in the comments.
More Neurodiversity & Autism Resources in The Ability Toolbox
- Comfortable Autism Noise Canceling Headphones and Earplugs
- Why the Autism Puzzle Piece Is Bad, and What to Use Instead
- Autism T-Shirts and Clothing to Celebrate Neurodiversity Acceptance
- Sensory Swings for Kids and Adults with Autism or ADHD: A Guide
- Sensory Overload Self-Help Guide: Coping Tips to Help You Thrive
Hey I'm Olivia and I'm a proud Autistic woman. My special interests are cats, stim toys, and electronic music! I love to write and help other Autistic adults find ways to enjoy life in this LOUD world!