Autism, Haircuts And A Nursery Rhyme Haircuts can be traumatic for autistic children. It took two years for Australian barber Lisa Ann McKenzie to give Jordie Rowland a cut. The breakthrough was singing a favorite nursery rhyme.
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Autism, Haircuts And A Nursery Rhyme

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Autism, Haircuts And A Nursery Rhyme

Autism, Haircuts And A Nursery Rhyme

Autism, Haircuts And A Nursery Rhyme

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/595481707/595481708" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Haircuts can be traumatic for autistic children. It took two years for Australian barber Lisa Ann McKenzie to give Jordie Rowland a cut. The breakthrough was singing a favorite nursery rhyme.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

All right, that is a familiar sound, the sound of a haircut. But it's also a sound that can be terrifying to a child with autism. That was the case for 10-year-old Jordie Rowland of Brisbane, Australia. Jordie has autism, and he doesn't speak. The first time that hairstylist Lisa Ann McKenzie tried to cut his hair, Jordie bolted from the chair.

LISA ANN MCKENZIE: I've never experienced a child so terrified. I was just devastated that I couldn't do better and I couldn't reach him.

MARTIN: For the next two years, McKenzie tried everything. She asked Jordie's parents to bring him to the shop after closing time so he could sit in the barber's chair with no one else around.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

But that didn't work. And so McKenzie made a house call. That time, she got in a couple of snips but not more than that.

MCKENZIE: I think his parents lost hope probably six months into this because I was getting kicked, and punched, and pinched and screamed at. And I never changed my tone of voice. I never lost that compassion.

GREENE: And then she got an idea.

MCKENZIE: I don't know why, but this day, I just started singing a nursery rhyme to him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MCKENZIE: (Singing) The horn on the bus goes beep, beep, beep. Beep, beep, beep.

Like this, isn't it?

I just knew that I'd reached him. And he started to interact with me during that, which he had never ever done before.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MCKENZIE: (Singing) All through the town.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVEN CURRENT'S "WHEELS ON THE BUS (INSTRUMENTAL BABY LULLABY)")

GREENE: And with McKenzie singing to him, Jordie sat still for a haircut for the first time.

MARTIN: A video of the haircut went viral. Parents of autistic kids around the world reached out to Lisa Ann McKenzie. She says when Jordie comes back for his next haircut, she is sure this time he'll sit still.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVEN CURRENT'S "WHEELS ON THE BUS (INSTRUMENTAL BABY LULLABY)")

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