Kids can be pretty unpredictable at times, however when it got to parents of children with disabilities, the work and the stress can be doubly so! For Deirdre O’Dwyer, who lives in Blackpool, Ireland, the reality of having a son with mental illness has meant a life full of erratic and unforeseeable circumstances, which she has learned to handle as calmly and creatively as possible.
Deirdre son, Evan O’Dwyer, is a 16-year-old with severe autism. Evan does not speak and has been non verbal all his life! The key to Evan’s happiness is basically trying to provide him with consistency that keeps surprises to a minimum.
And speaking of consistency, thankfully for Deirdre, she has found a barber who understands Evan’s situation and has been cutting his hair for the past 14 years!
Donncha O’Connell owns a haircut shop called the Baldy Barber. Just like the name would suggest, Donncha is a kind, light hearted man who is willing to do anything he can to accommodate the needs of his customers.
For the last 14 years though, Evan has not given him much trouble and the routine of getting his hair cut has stayed pretty much the same. However, Deirdre and Donncha were both in for a surprise when during Evan’s recent trip, he decided to mix things up a bit. Deirdre recalls:
“… today Evan had other ideas and refused to stay in the chair so Donncha and his brother Dylan improvised…”
Donncha, knowing that Evan considered the car his happy place, suggested that perhaps it was worth a try to move him to the car and attempt a hair cut that way. Deirdre, who was all about trying whatever it took to get the task done, decided to go along and was happily surprised to see Donncha’s scheme work.
Deirdre posted pictures of this heartwarming scene where Evan is sitting in the car, holding Dylan’s hands to keep him calm, as Donncha scrunched in the tiny car to finish the haircut with a smile on his face. Unbeknownst to her, the pictures were later shared by a local news media on their Facebook page, resulting in over 14,000 shares to date.
Not only was Deirdre pleasantly surprised, but also humbled by the various comments from readers who all seem to understand the daily struggles of raising an autistic child. According to Deirdre:
“I never expected this, but I’m so happy it’s raising awareness. The reason I shared it was because our lives are challenging every day, and just that one kind and simple gesture made my little boy’s life so much easier, and we avoided a meltdown.?”
The story resonated with several parents not only in her local community but also around the world, and their solidarity showed in the thanks they gave in sharing a positive story that usually end up getting forgotten or overshadowed by the bigger and more important stuff. Deirdre added:
“We hear about horrible stories every day, and I just wanted to share that we have unsung heroes in our community … with the amount of parents who have contacted me to thank me for sharing and raising [awareness], I feel I’m doing a little to help others in our situation.”
For Evan and Deirdre, this is definitely not an end to the daily struggles of autism, but it certainly adds a little glimmer of hope knowing that whatever life brings, there will be others like Donncha who are more than happy to lend a helping hand! What a great message for Evan too, to know that he is loved beyond just the boundaries of his family!