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The Hairdresser that Changed Our Lives

The Hairdresser that Changed Our Lives

Written by Lauren Mason

Support can be found in many corners of your life, and sometimes it’s not in the most obvious of places.  Many of us visit the hairdresser every 6- 8weeks to get a trim. For most this interaction is quite the routine appointment. For Rory and Karen however, a visit to the hairdresser means so much more.

Rory was diagnosed with high functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFASD) at the age of twelve. High functioning autism spectrum disorder (formerly known as Aspergers Syndrome) is one of the rarer forms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with just 1 in 250 children [1]  diagnosed in Australia each year. HFASD affects an individuals’ ability to interact and communicate with others in social settings. People living with HFASD see the world in full colour so to speak, which means that often smells, sounds, colours and feelings seem louder, brighter, and stronger than experienced by a neurotypical individual. Thus, often benefit greatly from the support of their network around them to engage in meaningful relationships with others outside of their immediate family unit.

Tough times at school and therapy options

School was a challenging time for Rory. Not everyone was understanding of Rory’s challenges and she was bullied at times by other students and some teachers. So much so that Rory moved to a smaller private school because the large public school she attended did little to accommodate children diagnosed with ASD. Rory tried numerous expensive therapies and medications to manage, including stimulants, antidepressants, experimental rTMS and tDCS, neurofeedback, integrative medicine supplements and individual psychotherapy. Some made no difference, others had only a small positive impact on Rory’s wellbeing.

One therapy was particularly trying. Neurofeedback requires the participant to have gel put throughout their hair (so that small electrodes can be placed on the skull to deliver low current pulses to the brain). Removing the gel can be time consuming and difficult, especially if this occurs every week, twice a week like Rory’s treatment. Luckily, Karen, Rory’s mum, heard of a wonderful local hairdresser Jodie who offered to remove the gel from Rory’s hair.

Meeting Jodie

So, it was decided. Rory was to visit Jodie each week at her hair salon Chapman’s Hair in Shenton Park. Whilst the treatments did little to improve Rory’s life, visiting Chapmans’ Hair was significant. Miraculously, over several weeks, Jodie was able to build a level of rapport with Rory that no other health professional had previously been able to achieve.  

The results were remarkable. Rory, once silent and anxious around others was blossoming into a chatty teenager who would speak not only to Jodie, but others in the hair salon at the time. Rory says she loves going to Chapmans because “it’s fun, makes me happy and I always have a laugh!”

 Karen, Rory’s mum adds “Chapmans has been so good for Rory. Going to see Jodie works! Our lovely Rory (who’s always been there on the inside) is showing her lovely self to the outside as well. She’s so much happier in public now which makes me happier, as I’m not so worried about her future now.

One of Karen’s friends commented “Maybe the positive changes in Rory is because of the lack of eye contact made at the hairdressers. When you get your hair done you’re talking but not having to make eye contact or use other social cues that can be challenging for a lot of people with an ASD diagnosis. The change in Rory has just been astounding”.

 Chapman’s Hair is not your typical hairdressing salon.  An environment with a distinct community focus, it is not unusual for clients to talk amongst themselves and the hairdressers to break out in song and dance from time to time. Jodie, the owner of Chapman’s Hair said many of our clients often just pop in for a chat with the team.

“We are part of people’s lives and our clients a part of ours”.

 A Hairdressers role in the support network

Many hairdressers say that having challenging interactions or conversations with clients is a common occurrence. So much so that the Australian Hairdressing Council has recognized the need for mental health training for hairdressers on the frontline. The course covers some of our most common mental health conditions including anxiety and depression. Other organisations such as Mental Health First AidAustralia suggest hairdressers would be good candidates for their training modules.

 “Hairdressers can provide supportive conversations that may not come from other areas of a persons’ life, especially if friends and family are not living close by “Jodie says.

From Rory’s story it is evident that support can be found in many places in the community, alongside more traditional avenues such as health professionals. With her newfound confidence Rory has enrolled in a visual arts course at TAFE and hasn’t looked back since. “Visual art has been an absolute savior for Rory. She is currently completing a visual arts course at TAFE and is doing so well. Jodie and her team have quite simply changed our lives” says Karen.

 To book a haircut or for more information on Chapmans’s Hair contact Jodie and the team on 08 9380 9550 or visit the website at https://www.chapmanshair.com.au/.


[1] https://www.aspergersvic.org.au/About-Aspergers

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The Hairdresser that Changed Our Lives

Support can be found in many corners of your life, and sometimes it’s not in the most obvious of places.  Many of us visit the hairdresser every 6- 8weeks to get a trim. For most this interaction is quite the routine appointment. For Rory and Karen however, a visit to the hairdresser means so much more.

Rory was diagnosed with high functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFASD) at the age of twelve. High functioning autism spectrum disorder (formerly known as Aspergers Syndrome) is one of the rarer forms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with just 1 in 250 children [1]  diagnosed in Australia each year. HFASD affects an individuals’ ability to interact and communicate with others in social settings. People living with HFASD see the world in full colour so to speak, which means that often smells, sounds, colours and feelings seem louder, brighter, and stronger than experienced by a neurotypical individual. Thus, often benefit greatly from the support of their network around them to engage in meaningful relationships with others outside of their immediate family unit.

Tough times at school and therapy options

School was a challenging time for Rory. Not everyone was understanding of Rory’s challenges and she was bullied at times by other students and some teachers. So much so that Rory moved to a smaller private school because the large public school she attended did little to accommodate children diagnosed with ASD. Rory tried numerous expensive therapies and medications to manage, including stimulants, antidepressants, experimental rTMS and tDCS, neurofeedback, integrative medicine supplements and individual psychotherapy. Some made no difference, others had only a small positive impact on Rory’s wellbeing.

One therapy was particularly trying. Neurofeedback requires the participant to have gel put throughout their hair (so that small electrodes can be placed on the skull to deliver low current pulses to the brain). Removing the gel can be time consuming and difficult, especially if this occurs every week, twice a week like Rory’s treatment. Luckily, Karen, Rory’s mum, heard of a wonderful local hairdresser Jodie who offered to remove the gel from Rory’s hair.

Meeting Jodie

So, it was decided. Rory was to visit Jodie each week at her hair salon Chapman’s Hair in Shenton Park. Whilst the treatments did little to improve Rory’s life, visiting Chapmans’ Hair was significant. Miraculously, over several weeks, Jodie was able to build a level of rapport with Rory that no other health professional had previously been able to achieve.  

The results were remarkable. Rory, once silent and anxious around others was blossoming into a chatty teenager who would speak not only to Jodie, but others in the hair salon at the time. Rory says she loves going to Chapmans because “it’s fun, makes me happy and I always have a laugh!”

 Karen, Rory’s mum adds “Chapmans has been so good for Rory. Going to see Jodie works! Our lovely Rory (who’s always been there on the inside) is showing her lovely self to the outside as well. She’s so much happier in public now which makes me happier, as I’m not so worried about her future now.

One of Karen’s friends commented “Maybe the positive changes in Rory is because of the lack of eye contact made at the hairdressers. When you get your hair done you’re talking but not having to make eye contact or use other social cues that can be challenging for a lot of people with an ASD diagnosis. The change in Rory has just been astounding”.

 Chapman’s Hair is not your typical hairdressing salon.  An environment with a distinct community focus, it is not unusual for clients to talk amongst themselves and the hairdressers to break out in song and dance from time to time. Jodie, the owner of Chapman’s Hair said many of our clients often just pop in for a chat with the team.

“We are part of people’s lives and our clients a part of ours”.

 A Hairdressers role in the support network

Many hairdressers say that having challenging interactions or conversations with clients is a common occurrence. So much so that the Australian Hairdressing Council has recognized the need for mental health training for hairdressers on the frontline. The course covers some of our most common mental health conditions including anxiety and depression. Other organisations such as Mental Health First AidAustralia suggest hairdressers would be good candidates for their training modules.

 “Hairdressers can provide supportive conversations that may not come from other areas of a persons’ life, especially if friends and family are not living close by “Jodie says.

From Rory’s story it is evident that support can be found in many places in the community, alongside more traditional avenues such as health professionals. With her newfound confidence Rory has enrolled in a visual arts course at TAFE and hasn’t looked back since. “Visual art has been an absolute savior for Rory. She is currently completing a visual arts course at TAFE and is doing so well. Jodie and her team have quite simply changed our lives” says Karen.

 To book a haircut or for more information on Chapmans’s Hair contact Jodie and the team on 08 9380 9550 or visit the website at https://www.chapmanshair.com.au/.


[1] https://www.aspergersvic.org.au/About-Aspergers