Melissa Clode never imagined she’d find a barbershop that perfectly accommodated and welcomed her six-and-a-half-year-old son Charlie who has multiple disabilities.
Charlie Clode had faced a few hard experiences and knockbacks at hair salons due to his inability to understand and sit still. He’s also survived seven heart surgeries and two strokes.
This led to his mum Melissa, or other family members, cutting his hair at home.
It wasn’t until last month when Melissa and Charlie came across a local barber shop in the city – Tommy Gun’s Australia – during the school holidays that Melissa had the courage to take Charlie for a haircut, where he had an unforgettable and enjoyable experience.
“Often in the disability community, we talk about how hard it is to get haircuts, and how it’s really hard to find people willing to take that little bit of extra time to cater to the children,” Melissa said.
“We tried a few times to take him [Charlie] for a haircut, and we’d had okay experiences, or alternatively, some people would just say no because he’s intellectually disabled. This was one of the rare times where we were out and about and able to actually go on an outing, so we asked if they would mind cutting Charlie’s hair.
“Charlie loved the experience. The barber, Nick, was just so friendly and understanding of sweet Charlie and made sure he had a great experience.”
Melissa said Nick had spent a lot of extra time explaining the process of what he was about to do so Charlie would stay calm and relaxed.
“He was just very gentle and genuine,” the mum said.
“I honestly wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to get Charlie into the chair to sit still, but he got so engaged with the barber. He got the full barbershop experience.
“The shop even had a little bar, so Charlie enjoyed having his apple juice because he was too young to have one of their beers.”
The Tommy Gun’s Australia barber of three years, Nick Quinn, said Charlie was a lovely client to have in the shop.
“It was a really humbling experience and felt really good,” Nick said.
“Charlie was just the happiest boy and he was looking at everyone and enjoying seeing all the other clients get their hair cuts too.
“I personally think everyone deserves a good experience in the barbershop, and it doesn’t really matter who you are or where you come from, or what’s happening in your life, everyone deserves to sit down, relax and just enjoy themselves, and I think Charlie definitely did.”
Nick said Tommy Gun’s was a very inclusive barbershop, which drew him to work there.
“We don’t turn people away, and we try and allow everyone from all walks of life to come in,” he said.
“I just love the acknowledgement of mental health and supporting people with a disability. That’s something really important to me.”
Charlie’s mum said she had received so much love from the Canberra community since posting about her son’s amazing experience on Facebook.
“We’d never met the barber before and he was just so lovely. You could tell he puts so much pride in his work and he jumped at the opportunity to cut Charlie’s hair, which we really appreciated,” she said.
“It’s so good to now have that place for children with disabilities in Canberra to be able to go to and feel comfortable and supported. Already, I’ve heard of other mums taking their kids there and having more great experiences.
“The staff were willing to go above and beyond for Charlie, and the environment was lovely. It’s a very bright, happy place with lots of atmosphere and we can’t wait to go back.”