Guest Post: Off The Top

Posted by on Feb 2, 2012 | 0 comments

Guest Post: Off The Top

Today’s post is by Jeff Stimpson, a fellow autism blogger who appreciates the humor on our journey. 

Off the Top

When my 13-year-old son Alex was a toddler, we took him to a toddlers’ place for haircuts: flat plastic cars to sit in, sweet female stylists, toys, Elmo on the VCR in front of him while he got a little off the top. They understood there for a long time, even as Alex’s legs grew too long for the plastic cars and a thin brown line appeared along his upper lip. “Alex, how are you!?” they’d want to know, their assistants who handled the aprons and the changing of the VCR tapes hovering nearby. I would hover with toys. “Alex, be good for a cut and you can have this.”
They were nice. They were pricey: $35 for a boy’s cut, plus the toys ($5 or so) plus tips for the stylists and their assistants. It hardly seemed fair that Alex (PDD-NOS) got the fun toddlers’ place for cuts and Ned, his typically-developing younger brother, didn’t, at least for a while, so the bill for the two boys sometimes near seventy bucks.
My wife Jill tried trimming Alex’s hair a few times, but though she likes to think of herself as a home barber she’s been clipper-shy ever since a decade ago when she buzzed me while watching, for some reason, The Shining (Her: Christ I forgot this part!! Me: Jill my ear!) Then we tried a lady who came to our house and claimed to have experience with cutting the hair of children with autism. She was good; Jill didn’t like the cut.
Off to barbers. It was easy with Ned, whose first haircut was in a wood-paneled joint where the barber had to put down his Racing Forum first. With Alex we had to try a joint of Italians, another of Russians (barber shops tend to run by ethnic groups in New York). Alex twisted at the buzz of the clippers, twisted at the snip of the scissors or the swish of the apron. The languages were different but the message universal: I can’t cut his hair if he won’t sit still.
The search was on. There are maybe a half dozen shops within a 20-minute walk, and one of these is Mr. Lucky’s European Styles. A slit of a place, padded chairs, photos of models with the cuts you can request, stylists’ cards in front of their mirrors. I noticed the teenager who had to be lifted into the barber’s chair from a wheelchair. The barber didn’t pause a second before going to work on the young man, whose head lolled as he dropped a basketball; it bounced to me and I passed it back to his father, who looked tired, and I got the feeling I’d found something.
“What’s his name?” the barber asked me at Alex’s turn to climb into the chair. “What’s his name? Okay Alex, sit still. Sit still. We’ll be done in second.”
He snapped the apron over Alex and cut around the ears and up the back. Scoop with the fingers and clip clip across the top. The dark inches tumbled down Alex’s apron and I thought, This barber knows someone with this.
“Alex, look in the mirror. Straight into the mirror, Alex.” And Alex does. I hover and dart around the chair, trying to not get in the barber’s way. Ned tells me to show Alex his toys and tell him to sit still, but I think maybe the toys aren’t needed. “Alex, sit still. Sit still.” He does. In what seems like a moment, they whip the apron off and ask me to pay about what I pay to have my own hair cut.

Jeff Stimpson is a native of Bangor, Maine, and lives in New York with his wife Jill and two sons. He is the author of Alex: The Fathering of a Preemie and Alex the Boy: Episodes From a Family’s Life With Autism (both available on Amazon). He maintains a blog about his family at, and is a frequent contributor to various sites and publications on special-needs parenting, such as Autism-Asperger’s Digest, Autism Spectrum News, the Lostandtired blog, The Autism Society news blog, and An Anthology of Disability Literature (available on Amazon). He is on LinkedIn under “Jeff Stimpson” and Twitter under “Jeffslife.”

Share this: Twitter | StumbleUpon | Facebook | digg | reddit | eMail