by: Laura Coleman, owner, Pigtails & Crewcuts www.pigtailsandcrewcuts.com/fayetteville
I have always had a heart for children, especially for those with disabilities. In 1972, my mother, Cindy Mahan, founded Friendship Community Care in Russellville. Since its opening, it has grown to over 1,100 employees statewide. Friendship Community Care is a provider of services to children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, so I grew up day in and day out around children with disabilities. Their disabilities ranged from autism and Down Syndrome to Cerebral Palsy and ADHD, and the list goes on.
Our entire family was involved in many of the events that were put on in the community benefiting people with disabilities. These events ranged from fundraisers, to Special Olympics and dances at Friendship. This gave me a unique understanding at a very young age for people that were developmentally different.
It wasn’t until I opened Pigtails & Crewcuts that I realized just how much this special part of my past would interwine with my new future. It quickly became apparent, though–surprisingly, the very first day we opened the doors. Within a couple of hours of our first day of operations, we had our first autistic customer. I knew this “could” be a tough haircut, but I also had faith in the stylists that I had chosen, faith that they could handle any situation with poise and respect. It ended up being a tougher situation than we thought, but we took every step possible to allow for the best experience for the parent and child. To make this outing a positive one for the autistic child, we decided to do the haircut in the back of the salon where there would be less stimulation. In short, it was a WIN! We were thanked over and over by the parents, but it was such a small thing on our part and was affirmation that even in this new venture I would be able to make a difference in the hearts and minds of children, even those with special needs, just like my mom had done for so many years.
Within days and weeks, we began to take part in many different situations that we were happy to improvise with. You would be very surprised at how quickly blowing bubbles will do the trick, or how proud a child is to get to put on one of our “stylin’ stickers” on their protective helmet after the haircut is finished!
There are all kinds of special needs and requests when it comes to getting a haircut, especially when working with little ones. For example, when one of our little loyal customers who happens to have a very high food allergy to peanuts comes in, we always make sure to have him come on a day when it’s less busy and we make sure to check with every patron in the store for peanuts before he enters. We have another customer that likes to play with the trains at the train table while getting his haircut… which is basically the only way we can get the job done! If that’s what it takes, though, that’s what we do. If sounds, movements, or unfamiliar people cause your child fear or stimulation, we can move to a quieter location in the back of the salon. Better yet, we can make arrangements for you to come in before we open with an appointment.
We have found that coming back to the same stylists for each haircut lowers the stress level for the child and parent. This could be for anyone, disability or not. Sometimes it takes trust and seeing the same face each time that helps to lower anxiety for everyone. Remind us on your way out, and we can give you the stylist’s card, the days they work and even put a note in the computer system for record.
We also invite any parent and children to come in and play in our playroom on a day when they don’t need a haircut, just to get familiar with the look and sounds of our salon. This help so that the next time you come for a haircut, the child is already familiar with us, and is usually excited about jumping in one of our little cars, getting a sucker, and of course a treasure when they are done with their haircut!
We got into the kids’ hair care business because we love kids—all kids, no matter how challenging their needs may seem. We opened our Pigtails & Crewcuts salon so that no parent, particularly parents of children with special needs, ever have to feel that way.
All of our stylists work hard to work with kids within their world, not try and fit them into ours. And if there are tears the whole time? Well, that’s completely normal, too. We’ve all been there, ourselves, and we’re here for you to make your child’s time in our salon a memorable one!