Cutting edge hair cutting

PUBLISHED: 11:54 26 May 2015 | UPDATED: 11:54 26 May 2015




In November 2015, Nicki Rodriguez-Holmes and Ian Marshall (owner of Spargo hair salon in Brentwood), are opening the world’s first SEN hair and nail cutting salon for children and adults with physical disabilities, developmental disorders and learning difficulties. It will be called SpargoLand and will be a place where people can have their hair and nails cut as well as being offered a support service within an environment safe and appropriate for them. SpargoLand will incorporate a sensory waiting area and specialist independent booths for hair cutting as well as an area for holistic massage.

Being the mother of a four-year-old son with autism was the inspiration for Nicki to create SpargoLand. Her son, Harrison, finds the experience of having his hair cut the most horrendous and traumatic experience in his world. This is due to not only the fear of someone physically touching him, but also the fact that it feels painful to have it cut. Harrison suffers severely with his sensory side within his autism, so simple things like having his hair and nails cut is a huge issue.

Having no experience within the hairdressing industry and the amount of hard work and dedication it would take, Nicki knew she simply could not do this alone. She also wanted it to be run as a not-for-profit charity, so whoever took her challenge would not be looking at it as a business. Nicki did not want to approach a hairdressing chain, but an individual who not only had credibility within the hairdressing trade, but also a personal experience, like she has with Harrison. Ian fitted this role perfectly as not only is he well recognised within the hair industry, but also has a very young nephew who has cerebral palsy.

Nicki and Ian envisage that Spargoland will be like a sanctuary, open to all children and adults who have a physical disability and/or learning difficulty — somewhere that would encourage them that no matter their appearance or their difficulty, they have the right to look and feel good about themselves. Nicki’s experience of having to cut Harrison’s hair while he slept would finally come to an end.

Spargoland has secured premises in Brentwood (behind the Spargo salon) and the team is currently in the proces of raising £100,000 by the end of June for the refit. They estimate that approximately 1,000 children/adults will be visiting Spargoland per year. This figure is based on research with local charities, groups and SEN schools which are supporting Spargoland and will refer families to them.

Carers with the experience of working with disabled and special needs children and adults will be trained how to cut hair rather than the other way around. Spargo will be doing all of their own in-house training for this with their specialist qualified trainer.

In autumn, two representatives from the Makaton (sign language) charity will be coming into the salon for a brief training session for all of the staff. There will also be training for the PECS (Picture Exchange Card System) too for all clients that are non-verbal.

Specialist ceramics will be made for clients who are unable to get out of their wheelchairs and as well as specialist equipment, the team will be designing four individual booths incorporating touch screen iPads, sensory lights and other gadgets. Children who are highly sensory will not have the noise of clippers or hairdryers, nor the trauma of having their hair washed, and the cuts will be done as quickly and efficiently as possible. There will also be sensory story books for children or adults to see what is going to happen before they come to Spargoland and Ian and Nikki’s dream is to have a Spargoland in every county in the UK.

‘Everyone in the world who has special needs or disabilities has the right to look and feel good about themselves, not just in Essex,’ adds Nikki.

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