A longtime barbershop in lower Manhattan has created a safe space for autistic children.
Barber’s Blueprint owner Arthur Iskhakov teamed up with autism advocates at KultureCity to create a sensory-inclusive experience for children on the spectrum.
"A lot of people don’t think about kids with autism,” said Iskhakov, 35, of Brooklyn. “… I see how other people react to it. There’s this big stigma.”
Iskhakov attributed his passion for autism awareness to his role as a parent. His wife Alana Ishakov pushed to include the services, though their children are not on the spectrum.
“We want the best for our children,” he said. “No one wants to feel isolated.”
Knowing how easily a child can get overstimulated in a barber shop — with its many sounds and sensations — Iskhakov has been trained and certified to handle the needs of young, autistic clientele.
He doesn’t use blow dryers or razors, he said, because the vibrations may be overwhelming. He also lowers the salon’s music, and uses tools — fidget toys, therapeutic pads, and noise-cancelling headphones — to temper reactions to the surrounding stimuli.
Iskhakov said he’s seen changes in one of his longtime clients, a 10-year-old boy with autism.
“He has become more sociable,” he said. “… His mother told me, this is the first place in the neighborhood that he felt comfortable in.”
Two other employees at Barber’s Blueprint are training to give autistic children haircuts. Dylan Rios, of Staten Island, said he jumped at the opportunity.
“At the end of the day, we work in the customer-service industry… I’m very gung-ho about helping people in any way," Rios, 21, said.