Autism affects the senses and can make the world intensely overstimulating — we saw that firsthand in the heart-wrenching letter one boy on the spectrum wrote to his mom.
That’s why everyday experiences like going to the grocery store or getting a haircut can be so distressing for a kiddo with autism.
For West Virginia mom Jennifer McCafferty, getting haircuts for her youngest, Isaiah, has always been an ordeal.
Isaiah is on the autism spectrum, and finds getting a haircut very stressful and anxiety inducing.
That is, until McCafferty took him to the South Charleston Sports Clips location, where he met Kaylen.
In a Facebook post that quickly went viral, McCafferty writes:
This woman, Kaylen, at Sports Clips in Charleston did more for my heart than she will probably ever realize.
Haircuts with Isaiah are no small feat. He hates having anything near his ears, the sound of clippers sends him in to a tailspin… this evening was no different.
I was ready to give up, but she wasn’t. She sat on the floor with my baby in her lap, and she cut his hair.
They talked about Dory and Christmas, and she even let him spray her with her water bottle.
Autism can be so very, very hard, but people like this make our days just a little easier
The post was shared from McCafferty’s page more than 27,000 times, and was picked up by countless other pages on Facebook that spread the sweet story even further.
People all over the country have been touched by Isaiah’s incredible tale and the awesome stylist Kaylen, who was so patient and gentle with a scared little tyke.
When reached for comment, she simply told LittleThings, “I am so honored and humbled to have received so much attention and recognition for simply doing my job.”
Where some stylists might have dealt with this tricky situation by trying to get the hair cut done as quickly as possible, Kaylen took care to understand Isaiah’s mindset.
McCafferty tells LittleThings: “When Isaiah has a meltdown his screams surround you. You know that there is a whole world moving around you, but his screams are all you hear… He needs to find his quiet safe space, and he needs you to bring him there.”
Kaylen added that she wasn’t fazed by his screams — in fact, she understood his fears. She figured out where it was he needed to go, and she took him there.
She let him take a break when he needed one, and she didn’t give up.
Kaylen joins an impressive rank of barbers and stylists who have worked hard to help kiddos feel comfortable in the salon chair, like James Williams above, who famously got down flat on the floor to help a client.
These people take an experience that can be profoundly frightening for children on the autism spectrum and make it something gentle and much less scary.
For kids with autism, kindness from people like Kaylen can help reinforce the idea that being a little different isn’t a bad thing, and that there will be people who come to meet you on your own terms.
Meanwhile, for all of the other parents out there dealing with the stresses of haircuts, dental appointments, and so on for kids on the spectrum, McCafferty has some top-notch advice.
“You are not alone, though I know it often feels like you are. There are people all over this world, just like Kaylen, who will show up right when you need them to. Remember that regardless of their diagnosis, your child is beautiful, and can do great things in this world.”