Home > When a haircut provides much more than a new “do” to a child with sensory needs: Tristan’s story

Sometimes kids just don’t like going to the doctor, the dentist, going shopping or even getting their hair cut. And when a student has been diagnosed with autism, emotional and behavioral issues, as well as other disabilities, it can often be a difficult task for parents to take their get their child to a hairdresser, as the salon environment can be overwhelming for children with sensory sensitivities. They often do not like the hair falling on their backs, the sound of the buzzer or even seeing scissors.

This was the situation confronting Maggie as her 8-year-old son Tristan’s sensory needs preclude him from getting haircuts. Tristan is a second grader at the High Road School of Hoffman Estates, a school  providing academic and therapeutic services for children, adolescents, and young adults, ages 5 through 21, with extraordinary needs. His hair reached a point where it was in his eyes, over his ears and covering his neck.

Knowing Tristan was in need of a haircut, Maggie searched for a barber that works with special needs kids but unfortunately couldn’t find one. She had discussed his hair with High Road staff and they understood the family’s struggle.

“Here at High Road of Hoffman Estates, our successes stem from the relationships we’ve built with our students and their families,” said Erin Reid, school director. “It is impossible to only support the educational piece of our students’ lives because so much of what they need, how they feel, and how they behave comes from outside factors at home. We know everything about our students from how they slept last night to medication changes and bathroom events.”

Things started taking a turn when one day in January his teacher heard Tristan say he needed his “hairs cut”. Seeing an opportunity to help Tristan and his mom, they contacted her to ask if they could cut his hair. Maggie enthusiastically told them to go for it and 90 minutes and four staff members later, he had a haircut! This “village” consisted of a speech therapist Madison Schuppert, teacher Ally Kolek, a paraprofessional, and Reid.

During the haircut the teachers distracted him with videos and could only do it for about 30 seconds before he would scream or fidget or need to move. While Tristan disliked when hair touched his shoulders, he was happy and energetic when he saw the result of the haircut.

Maggie said that he kept saying “haircut” when he came home and touching his head.

“My main wish is for him to express his wants and needs,” she shared. “It made me so happy and really touched me that they took the time to listen to Tristan.”

She is thankful for the work that all the teachers and staff at HRS of Hoffman Estates have put in with her son.