Teachers Helping Students With Autism with In-class Haircuts

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Okemos, MI - For these students, a hair cut is a challenge. The brushing, spraying, and clipping can be overwhelming.

That's why Paul Doher's students at Okemos Public Montessori at Central get hair cuts in class.

"It's a way to kind of help the kids get used to tasks and skills that they may not have regular access to or may be difficult for them," says teacher Paul Doher.

It's the only classroom in the Okemos Public School District for kids kindergarten through fourth grade with autism.

Going to a barbershop with unfamiliar faces, bright lights, and loud music can be sensory overload for autistic students like 7 year old Austin and 6 year old twins Sebastian and Connor.

"We're trying to break it down make it a little bit easier for them and provide a familiar setting," says Doher.

To make it through the trims, the kids take breaks, eat snacks, and rely on hugs from mom.

In December the first "haircut day" took about 2 hours. The second time around there were more smiles and less time spent.

"About 45 minutes to get a haircut in," says Doher, "but, they are able to do it and succeed."

For Sebastian and Connor's mother, seeing the twin's progress is the best part.

"It's overwhelming joy when you see from the point where they go from having to have such restraints and restrictions put on them to where they can do everything themselves," says mom Helen Skyles.

The progress is a reminder that just like any other 6 year old, the boys can grow and learn, they just do so differently.

"Just that little bit of progress is just so rewarding," says Skyles.

And in this classroom, there are no limits.

"Really autism is just a different style of learning," says Doher.

Parents and teachers will tell you students are intelligent, loving and just like any kid, they'll squirm during a haircut.

There's a huge, supportive community in Mid-Michigan for families with kids who have autism. It's called the Mid-Michigan Autism Association, and they have a lot of resources, provide support, and organize social events. Click the link on this story for more.

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