I sit here with an extraordinary gentleman named James Williams who was voted best barber in Wales in 2015 and best hairstylist of the year, but that is not what the world knows him for. James is known for bridging the gab between the lack of knowledge with barbers and children on the autistic spectrum. James didn’t originally start out with children with autism or even have any background working with them however, when he started he knew that this had to be done so he took the extra time and now parents everywhere are seeking out his skills.
Jims mother saw he was a creative kid and got him into barbering at a young age. As he grew into a teenager he worked with his mentor, Andrew Emanuals as a hairdresser but 3 years later decided to explore his own unique set of skills, which lead him on an incredible journey.
Adversity is what sets Jim apart from the rest but not only with his skills. His cutting ability, patience and caring nature has lead him to get heavily involved with children on the autistic spectrum. So much that he has closed his shop on Sundays just to block out slots for these children. His natural instincts when it comes to a child with autism have made him so successful. He knows what suits them best. His closing of his shop on Sundays is so that the children can be free of the noise and other patrons to make them more comfortable.
He uses a variety of techniques to gain the trust of these children. One of them is to show what he wanted to do on them but to himself. He even would let the kids take hold the scissors with his hand as well and guide them through his hair. However, sometimes it wasn’t as easy as showing the kids, sometimes he had to block out slots of kids weeks in advance and sit with them weekly to earn their trust before they would allow them to come near them with scissors.
One child in particular, Mason took 4 months before he warmed up to Jim and this breakthrough led to more and more families coming to him for help. Many barbers don’t see this time as valuable because it’s time that can’t be spent on the business but Jim is trying to debunk that myth. He explains that a family is happy to pay for the time slot, even if their child is not getting his hair cut. These families appreciate the dedication to their child and if that child comes to be comfortable with a barber on a regular basis so that getting a haircut is never an issue then that is a breakthrough as a family as well. Jim wants to help raise awareness about working with kids with autism in the barber industry.
Sitting, lying down and crawling around his shop floor is no new technique with these children. Jim realizes that these children’s brain works differently than ours and so he breaks all protocol and says there is no law when it comes to unique clients. Jim says it’s important to let the child lead and you follow and he absolutely loves it. He gets to learn about a child on a more personal basis, gets to know their individual personality and have fun while doing it.
Speaking of specific clients, there are a few that stick out for Jim. Mason is the reason he is even doing all that he is now. He had a breakthrough with Mason 4 months down the line that resulted in him on his stomach on the floor cutting his hair. Now, Mason is able to get his haircut with clippers. Going from not entering a barber shop to allowing Jim to clip his hair with a noisy instrument is a huge accomplishment that has only lit a fire in him. Now, Mason can also use up only a 30 minute time slot just like every other client instead of an hour.
With this breakthrough with children and discovering his skill, Jim wants to help other barbers realize these opportunities as well. Therefore, Jim has a future planned that includes providing courses to others to teach them how to help a client who comes in that is on the autism spectrum. The National Autistic Society is even awarding him, which is a huge step for him because previously he had not qualifications to work with children with autism; he was just using his natural instinct. Now, he has officially been given the go ahead.
This work has not gone unnoticed. Jim has blown up on social media and people all over the world are commenting on his work. Jim is even going over to America to an event called Be Groomed. There, he is going to speak about how to run a successful business while also working with kids with special needs. Jim’s business isn’t affected negatively at all by his work with children with autism and he hopes he can relate that to other barbers and teach them how to approach individuals on the autism spectrum.
Although Jim put money from his own pocket in at first, he said you have to do that with every new aspect of a business but it pays off. He gained it back and now even has formed an official charity with autism. His work ethic is truly admirable and I look forward to see what he accomplishes in the future.
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