MERIDEN — After opening up his barber shop, New Style Hair Studio, and getting all his barbers autism certified, Eddie Rivera created a special needs training course for cosmetology students.
“This is a big issue in the industry and there is no type of certification for barbers so me, alongside a social worker, created this special needs training course to try to work with the schools and try to teach the barbers while they are going through the process to become a barber to learn about special needs and how to treat them, how to evaluate them and things like that,” Rivera said.
Rivera worked with social worker Kate Stanley to create the training course. Stanley said this type of training is needed in the barbering and cosmetology field.
“There’s so many different levels of sensory issues that could be triggered by a hair cut,” Stanley said. “An individual with special needs might have difficulties tolerating bright lights of a barbershop. The sound and feeling of the clippers on their head. Even having to sit in the barber chair with the cape on for an extended period of time might be a struggle. The program really provides strategies for how to support clients that have sensory sensitivities due to autism or other developmental disabilities.”
Rivera said the training will focus on a variety of topics, such as autism and sensory disorders, attention hyperactivity disorder and attention deficit disorder.
“General facts, statistics, characteristics, traits and types, identifications, screenings, diagnoses, biological and neurological explanations, parent feedback regarding barbering concerns and solutions, intervention and support strategies,” Rivera said.
Stanley said the training is supposed to act as a toolkit, not a way for the students to become mental health or behavioral experts.
“It is intended to give them just kind of a useful toolkit for helpful strategies to provide better, more supportive and inclusive services to these clients,” Stanley said.
Rivera will be implementing the training at all of the Ace Cosmetology and Barber Training Center locations.
“I saw that they were growing and I respect the fact that they’re opening up more schools and I wanted to team up with a school that has that ambition and is open to the idea of introducing my training course to their students,” Rivera said.
Gary Olmstead, owner of Ace Cosmetology, thinks that other barbering and cosmetology schools will want to implement a similar training program.
“I used to be a barber and I already know what it’s like to work with people with special needs,” Olmstead said. “I think it’s great, it’s being brought to light and it is something we can train people on.”
Stanley said that right now, the program will be full-day with an assessment at the end, but she is hoping that it can also be offered online to make it more accessible.
“This is a huge need in the barbering and cosmetology world,” Stanley said.