A sensory room has been opened at a Torquay barbers and unisex hairdressers that has seen a huge increase in its service specialising in cutting for children and adults with special educational needs and additional sensory needs.
Barbery Coast at Watcombe roundabout have refurbished the back room of the salon to offer a wheelchair-accessible sensory room for children - both SEN and neurotypical - and adults with SEN and additional sensory needs to increase the offering to the community.
Kelly Harvey's niece was the inspiration behind the room, named aSEND, and it is hoped that it will, in the long term, be offering work experience opportunities to people with SEND.
Kelly's partner Aaron started the barbers last year and her sister Vikki, who is a qualified hairdresser and colourist, joined the team.
Vikki has been catering for SEN child clients for a few years based on her own experiences as mum of a SEND child.
Prior to qualifying as a hairdresser, Vikki worked as a learning support assistant in a special school.
Kelly said: "We decided to create the sensory room to offer an additional local facility for our SEND clients.
"The SEND services we offer have seen a huge increase in demand since Vikki advertised herself for the first time.
"Aaron has been working with both adult males and children with additional needs. He previously worked as a youth sports instructor within schools and community facilities in North Devon.
"The way we cater for our SEND clients is very much geared to the needs of the individual, so Vikki will offer home visits and we also offer introductory sessions, storyboards, video tours and online visits to familiarise customers with the sights and sounds of the salon.
"This provides desensitisation to an experience that many children with additional needs can find anxiety provoking and overwhelming.
"But we take the time to build rapport and trust with clients and never push them past their comfort level with the experience.
"As a result, we have a raft of returning customers, success stories and reviews/testimonials.
"We have also heard some real horror stories about parents being subject to additional charges for SEND child cuts and distressed children being forcibly restrained.
"We hope the sensory room will offer another opportunity for desensitisation and reframing salon visits as a positive experience for people with SEND and spectrum/sensory disorders, additionally that it will provide an accessible facility in an area which is frequently overlooked for investment.
"Hopefully, in the future it will also offer a work-experience/training opportunity for young people with SEND.
"Myself and Vikki are both grew up in the local area - Barton, Torquay - and went to the primary school on the local estate at Watcombe and, as a team, we are all passionate about contributing positively to the community."
Bookings for the aSEND sensory room are by appointment only. Call 07857 825055 for details.
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