I was getting my hair done this past weekend when I saw another stylist returning multiple capes to a rack in the back of the salon. "My client has autism and always asks for at least five capes," she says to a coworker. Overhearing this jumpstarted a conversation between my stylist and me, and I quickly learned that she, too, has clients with special needs and the lengths she's willing to go to keep them relaxed.
Naturally, this had me wondering what other stylists do to keep special needs clients satisfied and comfortable in the salon. Brian Lopez, stylist and director of marketing at Salon Kink in Linwood, New Jersey, dedicates the first Tuesday—typical off day for the salon—of every month to appointment-only bookings and allocates four hours to serve children with sensory disorders, disabilities or needs that require some extra care. Each appointment is one hour, and children are seen one at a time to eliminate extra noise and maintain a calm environment. Best of all, all proceeds from the cost of the haircut are then donated to a local charity.
"The idea was put together by the owner of Salon Kink, Belinda Novelli, junior stylist Sabrina Solorzano and myself," Lopez says. "We recognized the demand to support children with special needs, and as the plan came into place we were able to reach out to our local community organizations for guidance in executing it successfully." When the initiative first took off a few months back, Lopez had no idea that it would have such success. "The demand and bookings for these sensory-dedicated days are in such high demand that we will be adding more days throughout the month to accommodate as many children as we can."
In the hustle and bustle of a salon environment, it's easy to lose focus on the extra attention some clients need. "Several years ago, I began volunteering and working with children in the developmental program of a local school system," Lopez says. "It was during this time that I realized some of these children are scared of the idea of a haircut. I came to learn that repetition and making these children feel comfortable was the most important factor."
Special needs clients aren't the only ones benefiting from the progressive salon initiative; Lopez says that he has gained a lot from the experience as well. "Each client has been a driving force in making this such a pleasure," Lopez says. "I hope I can continue to provide the best environment for the children in my salon and help other stylists within the industry recognize the importance of these needs."