MERIDEN — As a way to make his new barbershop more inclusive, Eddie Rivera and his barbers are all being certified to work with individuals with autism.
Rivera, owner of New Style Hair Studio, feels it can be difficult for someone on the autism spectrum to find a place to get a haircut.
“I figured to raise awareness and make my barbershop a certified autism center,” said Rivera who is planning a soft opening soon and a grand opening in September. The shop is located at 975 Broad St.
Rivera found the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards, an organization that provides training and certification for professionals working with individuals with autism and other cognitive disorders. Rivera and all his barbers have completed or are taking training, which is taught by autism specialists, including doctors, educators and parents.
“Each of our training and certification programs are specific to the industry...” said Meredith Tekin, president of the IBCCES. “Generally speaking, we share evidence based information, best practices from leading experts...as well as viewpoints from individuals with autism themselves to help professionals better understand and improve outcomes when working with these individuals.”
There are 16 different training units. Participants must pass a quiz after each unit to advance.
The training “goes through different protocols and procedures of different levels of the spectrum because obviously everybody is not the same,” said Steven Chabarro, master barber at New Style Hair Studio. “There’s some people with issues with sound, some people have issues with touch, so everyone is catered differently.
“… As somebody who is offering the services, you shouldn’t turn someone away because you don’t feel comfortable with the unknown,” Chabarro continued. “I would hate, if it was my child, that someone was like, ‘Oh no. He’s autistic. I can’t cut his hair’ or ‘He can’t come into this store.’ The day and age that we live in, that’s not appropriate at all.”
IBCCES has had a few stylists attend their Autism Certificate program, but not a lot.
“Autism and other cognitive disorders affect millions of individuals in the U.S. alone, but unfortunately many professionals do not have specific training to better understand and work with these individuals,” Tekin said.
Rivera hopes the certification will encourage parents to give the shop a try.
“I want (parents) to know that I am going to have patience to deal with the kids,” Rivera said. “I would like to build a relationship with the kids...making it a place where they can go for years...”