It’s the first of its kind in Britain – a hairdresser’s salon for children with autism.
Spargo Hairdressers is based in Brentwood, Essex, where the owner, Ian Marshall, built an extension to his shop.
Now, with the assistance of Brentwood Breakfast Rotary, plus matched funding from District 1240 – Essex, East London and East Hertfordshire – it has been possible to fit out the premises with sensory equipment.
This will enable Ian to provide for free his hairdressing skills to individuals, young and old, who have learning difficulties.
Peter Dowse from Brentwood Breakfast Rotary, who is also the District 1240 Youth Services chair, is a regular.
“After many visits to Spargo Hairdressers, in Brentwood, I discovered that the owner, Ian Marshall, was considering turning the back of the premises into a room for the haircutting of children and young people with learning difficulties,” explained Peter.
“Spargoland started to happen and has become a non-profit disability charity dedicated to children and adults with sensory, educational and physical disabilities.
“It is the very first dedicated building in the country for hairdressing, although some hairdressers do open at certain times for similar children and adults.”
Spargoland opened in 2017 and houses a sensory area, mood lighting and sensory toys.
For all children with autism, trust is the key and the new salon welcomes regular visits to the room so it’s not too scary or overwhelming.
“Children often come and say ‘hello’ before Ian is able to cut their hair which could be on the soft floor or in a chair,” said Peter.
“Spargoland recommends that all potential clients pop in to meet Ian and get to know the environment, taking one step at a time. Customers are at the forefront of everything they do.”
Rotary became involved in 2017, and Peter has raised thousands of pounds from abseiling off the Water Town in Harlow as part of an event run by Harlow Tye Rotary. For someone who hates heights, Peter has completed the task three times.
With the help of a District Grant, this has been used to buy sensory equipment, mood lighting and some toys.
“I am continuing to raise money because Ian is considering extending the room so as to be able to help more adults and children with disabilities,” added Peter.
“Rotarians help where they can, except cutting hair!”
Brentwood Breakfast are having a special plaque made to be displayed to show visitors the help they have given and continue to give.
The club has also presented Ian with a ‘Service Recognition Award’ on behalf of Rotary, signed by Lesley Sulley and Rotary in Great Britain & Ireland President Debbie Hodge.
For more details about Spargoland visit the website.