In continuing to recognize April as National Autism Awareness Month, Healthy Hairdresser got in touch with L. Dana Ross, a hairdresser who launched a Facebook page to educate hairdressers in the tricky task of giving an autistic person a hair cut. The single mother of two autistic sons, Ross asks hairdressers to please “like” her page, Hairdressers for Autism.
“My kids have made me who I am, and I’m grateful,” Ross says about Steven, 21, and Ryan, 13. Now in college aiming to go to medical school to become an orthopedic surgeon, Steven was diagnosed early with high-functioning autism, and everyone told Ross she wouldn’t be able to care for him alone. Although Steven was challenging—“autistic kids have a lot of anger,” Ross says—she still proved the nay-sayers wrong. Ryan, however, is severely autistic, and Ross has had help with him. As a hairdresser, though, she feels she’s the best choice for hair cut duties.
“I cry every time I cut Ryan’s hair,” Ross says. “He will not hold still, and when any hair gets on him, he just loses it. I often get injured, and I worry about hurting him.”
A master cosmetologist at Hinesville Day Spa and Salon in Hinesville, GA, Ross has been doing hair and other salon services for 28 years. She’s written two books about her career—I Need to Repair my Stiletto and Tales From the Wax Room. If she has this much difficulty cutting Ryan’s hair, how do other parents of autistic children manage?
“I always think about parents who have to take the kids to get hair cuts,” Ross says. “So a few years ago, I thought that I needed to do something about this. I feel that it’s my purpose on this planet to help others so that my struggle is not in vain. Hairdressers are very caring, helpful individuals. That’s why we are attracted to the business.”
Ultimately, Ross would like to establish a nationwide network of hairdressers who are trained in cutting hair for autistic individuals and who are willing to make home visits to do the service. Lacking both funds and technical expertise and support, however, her mission is at a standstill.
“Whenever I tell people about this, they say it’s an amazing idea,” Ross notes. “There has to be a visionary out there who can tell me how to make this work.”
In addition to liking Hairdressers for Autism on Facebook, to help out you can message L. Dana Ross on her page or on the Hairdressers for Autism page to show support, share stories, supply funds or ideas for fundraising or volunteer to be trained in cutting hair for autistic children.