Sensory room at Barbershop is getting ‘an amazing response’
Maggie Radecka and Monika Gramza in the Gent’s Den Barbershop

Sensory room at Barbershop is getting ‘an amazing response’

A BARBERSHOP catering for young boys on the spectrum in Inchicore, may look at catering for young girls with special needs, such is the demand for the service in the community.

The Gent’s Den Barbershop on Tyrconnell Road has a special sensory room that is built to make the haircutting experience as comfortable as possible for youngsters on the spectrum.

The small business is co-owned by Polish sisters Maggie (Malgorzata) Radecka and Monika Gramza, who have been barbering in Inchicore for almost 14 years with the last four years as The Gent’s Den.

On April 2, they will celebrate World Autism Awareness Day and are inviting all the parents with their children for an open day where they can chat with them about their services and give guidance on how they can improve to make the place even more autism friendly.

“We started having kids from local schools and crèches, many of them being afraid of getting a haircut. Also, we noticed we have many children on the spectrum,” said Maggie.

“Watching kids struggling to overcome their fears and poor parents stressing out about how every visit in the barbers will go, with trying to hold the little ones on their lap or chair while they were crying wasn’t what we wanted for our little customers.

“This is when we decided we need to educate ourselves and do something that will help children and parents to enjoy the visit in our shop.”

After starting an Autism Awareness Diploma course Maggie came up with an idea of building a sensory barber room.

“This service is all about helping children with fears of getting a haircut or children with ADHD or on spectrum to overcome their fear,” said Maggie.

“We welcome them in the sensory room, play with them and gradually, taking one step at the time, checking if the little ones are ok with us getting closer, touching their hair,etc.

“We show them one tool at the time while playing with other toys, working on helping them to stay in the chair without getting a haircut.”

Things were not looking so rosy a few years back, after the Inchicore barbers where Maggie worked at for 12 years, closed abruptly, but a quirk of fate helped to propel her forward.

“The place closed down without any notice. I remember standing outside the shop while some people were taking all the furniture, and I was trying to contact my boss to ask what was going on, but I had no response,” she said.

“One of the guys carrying the chair out stopped, looked at me and said ‘don’t worry, one day maybe you will open your own shop’ and that’s how I realised my job was gone.

“Minutes after, the guy with the chair came back and said he feels sorry, and he thought of leaving me one of the chairs if I wanted to start out on my own. This day turned to be one of the best days in my barbering career.”

From humble beginnings at a small space at the side of Cleary’s Pub, eventually, demand forced the sisters to look for more space, and they got that at Tyrconnell Road.

“Our sensory room is getting amazing response,” said Maggie.

“We are so happy we matched the needs of our customers. The happy faces of children and their parents after going through the service stress free are priceless. We enjoy every minute spent with them.”

The official opening of the autism friendly sensory barber room will be followed by other projects to raise awareness of the issue and help other professionals understand the complex condition.

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