MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — With patience and precision, Eddie Rivera gets to work, shaping and trimming this boy’s hair. But, Rivera’s skills are special. He’s certified to work with kids on the autism spectrum.
“I want to provide a safe haven for parents and children in the autism world,” says Rivera. “I want them to come here and feel comfortable.”
Rivera took a 14-hour test with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards. He added a television and bold art to his salon, New Style Hair Studio.
“The parent will tell me, ‘He doesn’t like noises,'” explains Rivera. “If there’s music, we take it down.”
“It feels nice. Eddie is gentle, he makes it easier, he talks to me,” says 11-year-old Arturo Cerasale of Wallingford, with autism and a mood disorder, who used to be scared of getting a haircut. “It felt itchy. I couldn’t stand it, it was too hard.”
But, feeling comfortable in the salon and building a relationship – a trust – with Rivera has made all the difference.
“It doesn’t hurt and he’s perfect to all the kids with autism,” says Cerasale.
Rivera can also provide weighted vests and soothing toys for sensory issues. More stylists in the studio will be certified in the next few months.
“Just make a better experience for everyone,” says Rivera. “Make the barber shop experience more universal for everyone from all walks of life.”
Cerasale wants his hair to resemble ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’: “I like running around and running around the yard all the time.”
He leaves the barber’s chair confident and happy. “It makes me feel wonderful,” he says.
Rivera has big plans for 2021. He hopes to open a school where students learn how to style hair while also relating to all people with special needs.