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Meet the barber helping neurodiverse kids feel at home

Craig Henderson runs a barbershop in Bolton with a difference.
Craig Henderson

It’s very likely you won’t meet another barber like Craig Henderson.

Craig has crafted a wonderful space of inclusion and understanding in his Bolton shop in amongst the buzz of clippers and the snip of scissors.

Usually, a trip to the barbers is pretty straightforward – in – sit down – talk about your holidays –  and you’re ready to go.

But for people who are neurodiverse, things aren’t so simple.

Craig invites his clients, mostly children, to relax as he cuts their hair – by playing with toys, lying down, or doing whatever makes them feel at ease, while he works around them.

They have also built a sensory corner in his shop, so children can entertain themselves with a fish bubble lamp, a tablet or a chalk board.

He has made it his mission to ensure that everyone who walks through his doors feels welcome and truly understood.

Craig’s Barber Shop

Craig Henderson

We sat down with Craig Henderson to talk about ‘doing things differently’.

Catering for the neurodiverse

“I run a gender-neutral and neurodiverse barbershop with my partner. I serve everyone in the community regardless of their disability.

“I believe everyone deserves a haircut and a chance to look their best.

“We also do a lot of work with The Nest Nursery, and Firwood High School, who help SEND kids. It was then we realised that a lot of people might need this service.”

He takes on a caring approach, gives them time to chill out in the sensory corner and find their feet, until the client is calm enough to work with.

“Every child is different, so we have to adapt”

He added: “every child is different, so it’s important to have a dialog and work out what the kids needs are at the time.

“It sometimes takes a lot of patience, and sometimes you get bit, or hit, or spat on, but it’s what it requires.

“It’s not something you can prepare for, or ever get used to – you just have to roll with the punches.”

Craig takes some more practical measures too – to ensure everyone feels safe and happy.

He uses blunt scissors, so the kids can feel them – which gets them used to the equipment and makes it more familiar.

He also uses a certain brand of clippers, called Gamma Plus, because they are very quiet.

Craig’s journey into the realm of neurodiversity began with a personal story close to his heart – his son, Ashton’s, struggle with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

Drawing from his experiences, Craig embarked on a mission to foster understanding and inclusivity within his community.

“I serve everyone in the community regardless of their disability. Autism, ADHD, Downs Syndrome, we work with everyone right across the spectrum.

Central to Craig’s approach is a deep understanding of each individual’s unique needs.

Whether it’s playing with toys, lying down, or engaging in dialogue to discern preferences, Craig ensures that every client feels comfortable and valued throughout their visit.

One of the distinctive features of Craig’s Barber Shop is its sensory corner, designed to provide a calming space for clients to relax.

Here, individuals can acclimate to the environment before their haircut, promoting a sense of ease and familiarity.

Craig sheds light on his journey and the strategies he employs to accommodate neurodiverse individuals.

Reflecting on his accolades, including awards for his community contributions, Craig emphasises the importance of patience and understanding in his line of work.

Craig’s barbers has won numerous awards, including: Greater Manchester NHS Integrated Care partnership community champion awards, Collective Pride Award for beyond business, and was named on the Sunday Times Alternative Honours List 2023.

“Every child is different, so it’s important to have a dialogue and work out what the kids’ needs are at the time,” Craig notes, highlighting the personalised approach he adopts with each client.

Craig's Barbers

Addressing the challenges of working with neurodiverse individuals, Craig emphasises the significance of desensitisation techniques.

By gradually exposing clients to the barbering experience and allowing them to lead the process, Craig aims to create a safe enviornment where he feels like the people he works with can trust him.

“A lot of this is about trust, especially with autism.

“These kids see a stranger, with scissors, and it can activate trauma. You’ve got to be very careful, and understanding, until the child feels comfortable. Then we can get to work. You have to let them lead.”

Looking ahead, Craig is passionate about sharing his expertise with fellow barbers and salon owners.

He is hoping to set up a new training program to help  empower professionals to better serve the neurodivergent community with compassion and competence.

Despite the occasional hurdles, Craig remains steadfast in his dedication to creating an inclusive space where everyone feels welcome and understood.

By using empathy and acceptance, and a lot of patience, Craig hopes he can inspire others in the industry to cater for the neurodiverse.

You can find out more about Craig Henderson’s work at Craig’s Barbers on their instagram page by clicking here

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