GILBERT, Ariz. - It's not easy raising kids. It can be even more of a challenge raising a child who is on the autism spectrum -- sometimes the simplest experience, like getting a haircut, can be traumatic.
Snip-Its, located in the SanTan Village in Gilbert, has found a way to make the haircut experience more comfortable.
For 6-year-old Mathew Ramos, that’s good news. He has been diagnosed as mild to moderate on the autism spectrum. A busy salon can be a stressful experience.
“It would take my husband and myself restraining him in the chair. It was a fight. We both end up covered in hair,” his mother, Kristen Ramos, said.
Snip-Its lets Mathew’s mother make an appointment before the salon officially opens for the day. It means he has the whole salon to himself and can avoid all distractions that can come with a busy salon geared towards children.
“When there are a lot of other things he can't control, such as noises in the background, kids crying, TVs, [and] lights -- I think it over stimulates him in a situation he's already pretty stressed out in,” Ramos said.
Mathew gets to sit in the same chair with the same hair stylist. He needs consistency to feel comfortable. Vicki Villarreal has been his stylist for the past two years.
“I don't like to surprise Mathew. I do let him know the steps before I do them. I do try to encourage him that he's doing a good job. I do that throughout the whole haircut,” Villarreal said.
This kind of treatment is more than making Mathew look sharp. It indirectly helps him develop in a controlled, social environment.
“Vicki is not family, but she’s not a stranger at this point. He's learned to adapt and trust in other people,” said Ramos. “In a situation that’s kind of stressful, he’s learning to cope.”
More importantly, Snip-Its accepts Mathew for who he is. That makes life easier for everyone involved.
“It didn't used to be smiles. It used to be just a lot of tears and Snip-Its is a big part of the reason we don't have that anymore,” said Ramos.
The stylists do go through some special training. The salon will also work with the child's therapist to figure out what works and what doesn't. Snip-Its will open early or stay after closing to work on clients. Just call ahead to make an appointment.