Stourbridge hairdresser championed as a safe place for parents to bring their children with special educational needs

We recently caught up with Anthony Cokeley, Interim PSIAMS manager at Dudley CVS, to talk about exciting developments of a new online resource for children with special educational needs (SEN).

Care & Share, developed by PSIAMS systems, is an online community website and platform that supports children with SEN and their families. The website houses useful information and resources whilst behind the scenes lies a bespoke system which allows families, carers and professionals to document, track and celebrate the progress of the child.

One of the great things about the website, due to officially launch this month, is how the featured information has helped people with additional needs to connect to local businesses recognised as safe places in the community.

Labichi’s, a local hairdressers in Stourbridge, has recently featured on the Care & Share website as a safe place for parents to bring their children with SEN for a comfortable haircut experience.

Manager, Ben Searley and his colleagues at Labichi’s gent’s hairdressing, situated in Market Street Stourbridge, have a ‘no rush’ attitude and do their very best to make all children and parents feel welcomed into their shop. The team recognise the importance of listening to parents to understand their child’s exact needs before beginning a haircut, Ben said

 “We understand that having a haircut can be an unpleasant experience for kids, and even more so for those with special needs. We have a wide range of kids that come in for a trim and we try to make the experience as smooth as possible. Some of the children may suffer from very short attention spans or sensitivity to the skin, which makes having a haircut very uncomfortable, or perhaps they are in a wheelchair. For those children, we want to make especially sure they feel right at home and assure them that they don’t have to worry about having their haircut. We love seeing all the kids that visit our shop and love to make sure that no matter what their disability they leave the shop feeling great without compromising on the quality of the haircut.”

Labichi’s has now been officially recognised as a safe place in the community and proudly displays a ‘Safe Place’ sticker in the shop window.

The Safe Place scheme has been developed by Dudley Voices for Choice and the sticker has become a recognisable symbol in Dudley borough to show that a place is safe for vulnerable people in the community. It means that people can expect a friendly welcome inside and people ready to assist if needed.

The shop is also now officially part of the Autism barbers assemble.

Rhys is 5 years old, he has Cerebral Palsy, Hydrocephalus, developmental delay and other additional needs. Rhys is now a regular at Labichi’s Barber and now enjoys having his haircut, but this wasn’t always the case.

Anthony, who is Rhys’s father said,

“When we first came to Labichi’s we were worried about the waiting, let alone the haircut itself. Rhys can be very impatient and very noisy if he is getting restless. Every time we went somewhere I always felt like people were constantly watching and secretly wishing we would just be quiet. The staff immediately made us feel at ease and welcomed us regardless of how much noise Rhys was making. They always make an effort to engage with him. When Rhys first sat in the chair, my concerns were that because he has a Ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt in his head, and he can be quite sensitive to it and this was going to make his experience even more unpleasant, but after I explained it to the barber he took extra care with him. Rhys was also sensitive to the noise of the clippers and found it really scary. He has now got used to this and is quite happy to sit the chair.”

Ben and his team at Labichi’s are always trying to find new and inventive ways to adapt to a child’s specific needs, recently inventing an imaginary ‘fidget button’, a fun way for a child to get any fidgeting out of their system before or during a haircut, by pressing the button for a 5 minute time-out.

Mason is also 5 years old, he has a rare genetic disorder, is partially sighted with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism, and Sensory Prepossessing Disorder (SPD). Mason’s mother, Charis Taylor, describes their first visit to the barber shop:

“After years of unsuccessful and traumatic experiences for us trying to get Mason’s haircut, going through the kicking, screaming and taking two of us to hold him down for a haircut, we were at the end of our tether. Labichis barbers was recommended to us, so very reluctantly, we decided to try it. We didn’t expect him to even sit in the chair, to be honest, and wasn’t very hopeful. He watched his friend have his haircut first which helped him to get his head around it, and eventually Mason sat in the chair! Yes he fidgeted, he moaned slightly and was very nervous, but he just sat and watched a cartoon on my phone the whole time while the barber worked around him patiently. The barber was very calm, didn’t force him to look up, just worked around him, explaining each step to him before cutting, and more importantly, he didn’t rush. The end results were a fantastic haircut, very proud little boy, and an exceptionally happy mummy.”

Ben and his team at Labichi’s are now looking to spread the word to parents, local autism support groups and special schools in the community to let them know that there is a safe place to bring children with additional needs. On occasion, the staff at Labichis will make out of hours appointments for parents that don’t feel comfortable to come for the first time during normal opening hours.

If you would like to get in touch with the team at Labichi’s, visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Labichibarbers/

If you would like to find out more about the Care & Share project contact Anthony Cokeley at anthony@psiams.com

Missed opportunities? Demonstrating our worth online

Photo credit: mkhmarketing / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: mkhmarketing / Foter / CC BY

A study published by Lloyds Bank has reported that more than half of charities lack ‘basic digital skills’, especially compared with small business. You can read the full report here.

The study particularly focuses on the lack of understanding about how a web presence can increase donations and other forms of finance, but it also chimes with one of Dudley CVS’s priorities for the forthcoming year and one of the key findings of our recent state of the sector survey –  voluntary and community organisations would like some support with telling their stories online.

Being able to demonstrate your impact online, at a time when organisations cannot solely rely on grant-funding alone to survive, might expose your organisation to new sponsors, supporters, crowd-funders, investors, donors, businesses looking to fulfil their corporate social responsibility principles. But the reasons may not be purely financial. Having a web presence can be empowering for your organisation and the people you support; you can run campaigns, dispel myths, inspire people, connect, share and learn.

But what do you think? What do you think about the report? What has an online presence allowed you to do more easily? What are the barriers to getting your organisation on the web? Is it resources, skills in tech and design or anything else? How could we all support each other to grasp new opportunities that the digital world might offer?