Recently diagnosed with autism, Vanessa D’Souza had her hair cut for the first time in three years! Reluctant due to sensory issues and general concerns, she was persuaded to have an appointment with celebrity stylist Jonathan Andrew… and be filmed by Channel 4 for the Steph’s Packed Lunch show at the same time. Jonathan is the Fudge Professional global ambassador and a salon-owner, and having given Vanessa a beautiful bob cut, has been inspired by what he has learned from her about the daily struggles of neurodivergent individuals. The upshot is that Jonathan launches a new service called The Comfort Cut.
The Comfort Cut
The Comfort Cut will be offered at the Jonathan Andrews Hair salon in Surrey. It allows people to have a phone consultation before coming to the salon, so that they feel safe, understood and nurtured even before stepping through the door. The pre-appointment conversation should discuss what might be sensory issues or triggers which may be present during the haircut. Then during the service, small steps include narrating what is about to happen or happening, Or being completely quiet if that’s preferable. Noise from tools such as clippers or dryers can be flagged up as triggers… the point of the Comfort Cut is to become aware of these potentials.
Vanessa D’Souza aka The Autistic Chef
After receiving a late autism diagnosis, Vanessa created a platform called The Autistic Chef to pursue her love of cooking. She’s even made it to the BBC MasterChef semi-finals. Her sensory sensitivities which made getting a haircut feel overwhelming, prompted her to want to share why people with autism may struggle to come into the salon. The meeting with Jonathan is helping spread the word as he now pledges to help raise awareness.
“As a Fudge Professional Global Ambassador, we share a message of #fudgetherules by championing every individual,” says Jonathan. “Hair salons are among the most diverse places you can go, making people feel good about themselves and encouraging individuality. I’m proud to be a part of an incredibly inclusive industry. Still, as salon owners and stylists we can do more to welcome a whole new community into feeling more comfortable within our spaces.
“Speaking with more neurodivergent individuals, I couldn’t believe how many simple fixes could make everything more accommodating and create somewhere everyone can go. I will be rolling out much more content on this to show others how we can help make small changes that make a big difference to people’s lives.”
Here’s some advice to start out with:
- Begin with the consultation and ensure that every step of the process to come is discussed. Could this initial step be undertaken virtually, pre-appointment?
- Ensure all guests feel comfortable at the backwash and understand any parts of the service that may be a sensory trigger
- Commentary cutting means that as a stylist you discuss each step of the haircut as it’s happening and move on to the next stage
- Or, after discussing requirements, if any guests want complete silence and no commentary – ensure that can be accommodated too
- Remember, it’s finding a happy medium with the individual and letting them know they are in safe hands. Whether they want to know what’s happening or just enjoy the process, they can choose
- There are options to avoid clippers, as the noise could be a trigger. You could find a quieter hairdryer. Or offer a solution for people who don’t want their hair dried at all but can still leave with a style that will give them an excellent finish.
Jonathan says: “I have been perhaps naive in understanding neurodiversity, and I’m so grateful that Vanessa D’Souza opened my eyes to something new. I really want to do my part to help as much as I can.”
Following her haircut, Vanessa kindly donated the 15 inches of hair that was cut (woah big change) to the Little Princess Trust. Bravo.
To discuss the Comfort Cut with Jonathan Andrew for your salon, click here
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