Jack and his dad have an amazing relationship and there are a few things they do that I leave “just for them”, such as pancakes for breakfast. Haircuts used to be one of these but Jack always came back looking like a heap of crap, and so I took matters into my own hands.
We briefly used a barber in Newbiggin but that didn’t work out, and so I asked on Facebook for some recommendations. As many of you may know, autistic kids typically object to haircuts, and Jack is no exception. I saw the name “Caleb William Oswell” tagged a number of times, and so I added him as a friend and asked him about his hair cutting services.
One thing that stood out for me is that Caleb was willing to come to the house and stay for as long as it took to get Jack looking decent, even if it meant just hanging out for a little while first until he relaxed. Sounded good to me!
Little did I know that finding Caleb was going to be one of the greatest privileges of my life. As well as being an awesome person, he really takes the time to get to know the kids. He knows just what to say to engage Jack, and to get him chilled enough to sit for a hair cut. For a few months now, Caleb has been coming to the house and cutting all the kids at the same time. Alada and Emma would come down and have the boys done at the same time – killing three birds with one stone!
When Caleb told me he was going to be working from Unit Twenty Barbershop, I decided to try and bite the bullet and see if I could get Jack to go in. We told Jack he was “specially invited to have a look around”…..next thing I know he’s in the chair pulling faces at himself in the mirror! I did not expect this – I actually went down earlier in the day to case the shop to see what it was like so I could talk to Jack about it. It’s great that I could, and also great that I didn’t need to!
Caleb began cutting autistic children’s hair when he saw a need in the community. “They don’t see the world the way most of us do, and that’s fine! But I started cutting their hair at home because some people just need a little bit more support!” he tells me.
Unit Twenty, Caleb’s new home, is run by Davy Orr, who works with students from Engage, an alternative education provision for young people who are ill-suited to mainstream education. Three of his incredibly talented students work there – Joe Dunn, Ethan Henderson, and Keiran Patterson, – alongside Caleb and fellow barber Josh Barry, another well-known name on the local barbering scene. And they have HUGE plans for the shop. I can confirm that coming soon is a quiet room/sensory room for clients with additional needs! I actually don’t know of any barber who offers such a service and I think it’s absolutely phenomenal that they are doing this. I can’t wait to go and try it out.
The atmosphere at Unit Twenty is AMAZING. It’s the kind of place that you can go, have a banter, get a trim, and you know you’ll be looked after. I felt welcome the second I walked in the door. Clearly Jack did too, because he willingly submitted to a haircut with ZERO fuss.
Caleb is still offering his home cutting service as well as cuts in the shop. If you want more information, you can contact him personally by adding him on Facebook and sending a message, or by calling him on 07415034034. Unit Twenty Barbershop is based on Havelock Street in Blyth, Northumberland but Caleb can travel within reason to clients in the area.
All I’ll say is, guys, I’ve been told by barbers “Oh yes, we are autism friendly…” but Caleb ACTUALLY is. He doesn’t have special training, he just has insight and the confidence to work with our kids, and that is something that cannot be taught!