Meriden barber creates program, teaching others how to work best with those with autism

Connecticut Families

MERIDEN – Getting a haircut can be very difficult for someone with autism.

So, when we first met Eddie Rivera in September, this owner of New Style Hair Salon had become certified to work with kids on the spectrum.

“I always meet the client, happy, excited, compliment them, build their confidence,” he says, noting the mission is poignant and personal. “I started seeing a lot of parents get denied when they walked in the barbershop, a lot of single parents, and my mom was a single parent, so, it touched my heart. I wanted to be able to help those parents.”

Now, the effort is growing.

“I created a program alongside a clinical social worker that will teach you things about accommodating, strategies,” he explains.

The online program with instructional videos and valuable tips is in partnership with a cosmetology school.

“Anybody that walks in here – I can’t just assume they’re going to be fine with what I’m doing so communication is key in this business,” says Steve Chaparro, a barber who has benefited from the knowledge. Rivera suggests weighted vests and soothing toys for sensory issues.

“The most important thing I’ve learned, honestly, is patience and everyone’s different,” says Chaparro.

“Building a relationship is the biggest part of it,” says Rivera who hopes to take the program national.

“My goal is to make this mandatory for all cosmetology and barbers who will have to go through this training course, so, we can make the community of special needs more comfortable and accepted,” says Rivera.

Rivera will launch the online program within the next month.

Click here for more information.

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