As I sat in her chair and we talked, we learned about each other. She learned that I worked with persons with autism across the spectrum and across the lifespan. She learned that I was interested in her experiences with her own family members and clients with autism.
And I started to learn more about “sensory friendly”.
What does she notice? On one occasion, a client affected by autism sat in her chair. She noticed his hot neck, burning up and red, creeping up from his collar to his ears. She gave him a cool towel. He visibly relaxed and softened into his chair. As she provided more and more ways for him to be comfortable in her chair, the stylist also noticed what he was interested in. She shares his enthusiasm for Star Wars and the two discuss it whenever he gets a haircut. She joined with him in discussing something that interested him, and she “took his mind off” the haircut.
He learned to tolerate haircuts in his chair and now occasionally turns down the cold towel.
How important is it to be “friendly” as a business? Maybe it doesn’t seem like a life-or-death situation.
But as any parent whose child screams bloody murder at the mention of a haircut, or a dentist, knows– it feels like it sometimes. And postponing dental work until a child can be put “completely under” is expensive, and doesn’t teach coping skills for going to the dentist through the lifespan. I know many parents who do their child’s haircut in the basement, where no one can hear the screams, and where the sensory stimulation and its fallout is more controllable.
We’re fortunate in the Boulder and Broomfield area to have several excellent pediatric dentists in our area who practice friendly supportive dentistry. There are “sensory friendly” films, and autism supportive places to eat.
How is it in your area?
If you’re a business, is there a small way you can “be the change” you need in your neighborhood?
Thanks, Felicia at Finishing Touch Spa and Salon!
If you’re a community member, can you advocate for those small changes and value them when you see them? (The website myautismteam has a provider list and online family network).
“Sensory” and “Behavior” are both misunderstood concepts, especially when people equate “sensory” or “behavior” to something intrinsically negative, or when people use “sensory” or “behavior” as an explanation for something else. When someone says “he had a behavior” or “it was sensory”, we haven’t explained anything.
Perhaps when a behavior analyst pays attention to how a person interacts with his environment, that behavior analyst is interested in the sensing of stimuli.
Perhaps when a sensory friendly teacher pays attention to how a student is affected by sensory stimulation, that teacher is interested in behavior.
The sensory-friendly stylist paid close attention to how her client’s facial expressions, body rigidity, tenseness, nervousness, fidgeting, breathing, and rapidity or fluidity of speech changed when she modified or provided sensory input.
In a word, she noticed.