Johnny’s path to self reliance

Person using sensory friendly clippers on their hair

Pictured: Johnny using his sensory friendly shaving tool.

Our morning rituals are often second nature, including tasks like shaving – a quick, everyday task for many. Living with autism, Johnny, a client of Gateways Therapy Services and his mother Catherine have found the task of shaving not just time consuming but challenging due to sensory sensitivities.

Shaving can present significant challenges for people with sensory sensitivities. They may experience amplified responses to tactile sensations, such as the feel of the razor on the skin, auditory stimuli like the sound of an electric shaver, and visual inputs involved in the shaving process.

Seeking support, Catherine and Johnny turned to Gateways, where they connected with Kym, an Occupational Therapist.

Kym talks about the approach she used, ‘A key aspect of this for Johnny was getting to know his sensory preferences and sensitivities, and then tailoring my intervention to best meet these.’ 

Kym introduced Johnny to sensory friendly shaving tools designed to ease the process. ‘I anticipated it would take a very long time before we would make progress – it has been very quick,’ Kym said.

‘When I introduced sensory friendly clippers – previously if Johnny saw clippers he would run, vocalise and bang walls in distress. In one session I introduced these new clippers and allowed him to decide if he wanted to touch them – placing them on and holding to my mouth to feel the vibration to model to Johnny, with no pressure on him to do the same. Within that session he signed cutting his hair, and with a mirror in front of him, tentatively clipped at the ends of his hair.’

Wad of hair in persons hand

‘His confidence grew and within that same session he gave himself a haircut; these trimmers were low vibration and low noise, and it was incredible to see his confidence grow. It was very rewarding to see, and that he could do this task completely independently.’

Catherine mentioned, ‘I can tell you that the improvement for him shaving his own hair, he shaved it himself right, not me touching him at all, I don’t touch him he just turned on the clipper himself and shave his own hair. That’s great you know I can’t express this, that’s the happiest moment!’  

Catherine shares, ‘The really magic moment was the second time of his OT session and shave his own hair by himself in front of the camera, that was the moment…the magic moment.’

Johnny’s therapy sessions with Kym have been a life-changing experience. He has achieved remarkable progress in managing the once-daunting task of shaving both his hair and face independently.  

An important aspect of Kym’s method involves actively incorporating families into the therapy process. This inclusion not only ensures a supportive environment for the client but also empowers family members with knowledge and strategies for ongoing support.

‘It is always important to build trust and rapport with our clients, and to gain insight to their strengths, interests and support needs areas,’ Kym said.

Catherine expressed her appreciation for being involved in the therapy. ‘Kym involved me a lot with the therapy and all that, which is great, as a mum of kids with autism, we want to be involved, it’s good for us to be involved, and we learn something from the therapist.’ she shared.

Person eating a pizza with a knife and fork

‘We offer therapy support across the lifespan, not just for children. We can focus on what you want or need to achieve, to support independence and success wherever you need to engage in that occupation – school, home, work and in the community,’ Kym explains.

Rohan Braddy, CEO of Gateways shares, ‘Every step we take at Gateways is with our clients front of mind. It’s not just about offering services; it’s about crafting those services to fit the unique lives and aspirations of the people we support. Our success lies in making sure our support feels right for every individual who walks through our doors.’

Witnessing firsthand how tailored therapy can significantly enhance someone’s independence and confidence, Catherine expresses her happiness, ‘My experience with the therapy is really good, it’s great with Kym, because she understands the parents, she understands the family needs.’

For those in Western Melbourne seeking supportive and individualised therapy services for people with developmental disabilities, explore Gateways’ tailored programs. Enhance the wellbeing and skills of your loved ones. Learn more at Gateways Individual Therapy.