In January 2017, the Autism Society of Texas staff went to Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids at the request of owner, Don Avena. Don wanted the stylists to learn how to work with children with autism during haircuts at his first Austin area Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids in Sunset Valley. He asked that we train his staff on how to make kids with autism more comfortable and tips for the stylists to use when working with children with autism and sensory issues so that a haircut can be a positive experience! At the same time we also created a training video about autism and sensory issues for the stylists to watch. Recently, we went to visit Don at the Arboretum location to check in. Don told us that ever since they opened their first salon, they have been very selective about hiring stylists because they want them to be “all-in” when it comes to being sensory friendly! Regarding the autism training, Don said, “They loved it and thought it was very useful. It gave them techniques to make haircuts as comfortable as possible”. When asked if the stylists reported significant improvements in how they relate to children with autism, Don said this: “Stylists feel better prepared. Using techniques & knowing what to expect dramatically improves the experience on the first visit. We really work to try to build the relationship and then the second visit is even better! Stylists can make notes on what triggers the child or what works.” We heard from some very happy parents too! Erica, the Mom of a 4 year old with autism told us, “They blew me away with how compassionate and helpful they were. They had the hair stylist working on his hair and a helper blowing bubbles talking to my son and making things easier.” Paige, Mom of a 6 year old on the autism spectrum said, “They are patient and compassionate during every visit, and the laid back environment is so helpful. Having a TV at every station, a mini playground inside, and fun seats give it many advantages over the other places in Austin. Before we started going, my child would cry at every appointment – leading us to leave before we even started. This has never happened at Cookie Cutters. We are so thankful for Cookie Cutters and it’s staff!” Over the last two years, in addition to the Sunset Valley location, Don has opened three more locations in Pflugerville, the Arboretum, and Round Rock, and all stylists watch the sensory friendly video! Parents are welcome to bring their child for a visit, even without getting a haircut, and can let their child play on the playscape and look around, so the child gets used to being there before coming back another time for a haircut. Customers can also call in advance to let the salon know if a child has autism, and then book an appointment during a quieter time. We truly appreciate the commitment to improving the haircut experience for children with autism.
Cookie Cutters Haircuts For Kids was a King of the Road sponsor at our 2018 Texas Autism Bike Ride & Fun Run! We appreciate their support for our organization and their dedication to being autism-friendly! You can find out more about their Austin-area locations here.