Would you rather go to a barbershop or a salon and have your hair cut by someone you don’t know or by someone who has been cutting your hair for years? Chances are you’d be more comfortable with the person who has cut your hair many times over the years. And that is exactly why 16-year-old Evan O’Dwyer from Cork, Ireland usually didn’t mind going to get his hair cut. After years of going to the same barber, he was comfortable with having a certain person touch his hair.
However, Evan has severe autism. He is completely non-verbal and is very sensitive to his surroundings.
“He doesn’t like anyone touching him or invading his space.”
Evan’s mother Deirdre O’Dwyer told Metro that her son is so sensitive to another person touching him that she has to brush his teeth and cut his nails while he’s asleep.
Autism is a developmental disorder that affects about one in every 68 children in the United States and is characterized by a range of behavioral, cognitive, and psychological symptoms. Some of the more common symptoms include difficulty communicating, extreme interests, and repetitive behavior.
Although Evan struggles with allowing people to get close to him, one thing that hasn’t particularly bothered him is getting his hair cut. Deirdre said she met barber Donncha O’Connell a little over 20 years ago when she started going to him with her eldest son, Dylan. Evan has also been going to O’Connell to get his hair since he was a little boy, and the two are very familiar with each other. That helps Evan stay calm while in the barber’s chair. But on a recent trip in late May to the barbershop, Evan wasn’t having a good day.
“I could see Evan was getting anxious and agitated, so I knew to avoid a meltdown the best thing to do was to get him in the car,” Deirdre told Metro.
That day, Evan jumped out of the barber seat “as soon as the clippers started.” His brother, Dylan, helped to get Evan back into the chair again, but he soon realized he was fighting a battle he wasn’t going to win.
According to Evan’s mom, the family car is Evan’s safe space, a place where he is able to calm down.
The O’Dwyers walked out of the barbershop to their car with half of Evan’s hair cut and were ready to throw in the towel, when O’Connell came outside of the shop and offered to finish the hair cut inside the O’Dwyer’s car.
“It’s great when you have a brilliant barber and who totally understands autism and who will go to any lengths to make your child feel comfortable.”
O’Connell successfully finished Evan’s haircut in the car with Dylan helping to keep him calm, and everyone was touched by the heartwarming scene.
Deirdre shared photos online of Evan, Dylan, and O’Connell inside Evan’s happy place, and thanked the barber for making her son feel as comfortable as possible. The post, which has been seen by thousands of people, received hundreds of comments praising O’Connell for his actions.
Deirdre told Metro she was surprised, and happy, with the attention the post got.
‘I never expected this kind of attention but I’m glad,’ she told us. ‘So many other parents have contacted me and thanked me for raising awareness because of the struggles with children with autism.’