Jennifer McCafferty, of Charleston, West Virginia, did not know what to expect when she took her son, Isaiah Terrell, to get his haircut last month.
Isaiah was diagnosed last February with autism spectrum disorder. He has difficulty handling things like large crowds and loud noises and has a sensory sensitivity around his ears, according to his mom.
McCafferty decided to try a new salon, Sport Clips Haircuts, and was randomly matched with hairdresser Kaylen Barker, who had started working at the salon less than two weeks before.
Barker, 28, has been a hairdresser for nearly 10 years. She said she watched Isaiah getting uncomfortable in the chair and listened to what he said he wanted.
"He said he wanted to sit down on the floor, so I just got down on the floor," Barker told ABC News. "I let him spray me with my water bottle. We talked about 'Finding Dory' and he was telling me all about the fish."
Barker was able to calm Isaiah down to the point that he climbed in her lap and let her cut his hair. She was even able to coax Isaiah back into the salon chair to finish his haircut.
"I’ve cut a lot of kids’ hair over the years and just learned that you have to go their level and connect with them where they are," Barker said. "Most kids are afraid of haircuts and him being on the spectrum made it even scarier for him."
McCafferty said she was amazed to watch Barker in action and witness the change in her son's demeanor.
"He was laying on the floor at one point and trying to get out of her lap but once he got comfortable he was willing to do anything," McCafferty told ABC News. "He went from screaming that he didn’t want to get a haircut to, by the end, screaming that he didn’t want to leave."
McCafferty shared a photo of Barker cutting Isaiah’s hair on the floor on Facebook that has nearly 100,000 likes. Barker’s employer also commended the hairdresser for her actions.
"At Sport Clips our values are to do what’s right, do your best and treat others the way you want to be treated and that’s exactly what Kaylen did," said Amanda Donovan, the salon’s owner. "She made sure to give Isaiah that great haircut experience that we would want any client to have, and also for Isaiah’s mother, Jennifer. We’re very proud of Kaylen for doing that."
McCafferty said that remembering Barker’s actions still makes her emotional.
"You want your kid to experience things normally and not to hurt and kids with sensory, even little things it physically pains them," she said. "Kaylen being able to take him out of that spot and work with him was just amazing.
"It really did mean the world to me."