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Plastered through the news this past weekend was the story of a barber in Quebec who was called “an everyday hero” by the mother of a young, autistic client. This week, we take a hiatus from the back-to-school series of posts to bring you this heartwarming story.

The boy’s mother, Fauve Lafrenière, shared the above photo on social media of Franz Jacob cutting her son, six-year-old Wyatt’s hair while lying on the floor at the barber’s old-fashioned barber shop in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, 600 km northwest of Montreal. The photo went viral.

He’s a Natural Floortimer

In the CBC news story audio interview, found by scrolling down to the bottom of the story HERE, there are a few things that the barber, Franz Jacob said that showed me that he is a natural Floortimer who really “gets” it. It could be kids on the spectrum, the human connection, empathy and compassion, or even Floortime.

“When I do an autistic child, I have the parents come at the end of the day because I’m locking the door and we are just doing this business… the most quiet as possible… because usually the barber shop is really crowded.”

Franz Jacob gets the ‘I’ in the Developmental, Individual differences, Relationship-based (DIR) model: Individual differences. He understands that a noisy, busy, loud barber shop is too overwhelming for his autistic clients.

Also, by serving them at the end of the day, he also can put his entire focus on their individual needs because his own work day and worries are over.

“I developed a way of having fun with them.”

Franz Jacob gets the whole point of Floortime, which is connection. And notice that he specifically chose the word ‘with’. He understands that they are having fun together, finding a common ground where they can have a shared experience of joy.

“I’m really close… really looking at how he’s behaving and I’m just following him.”

You may recall that Dr. Gil Tippy shared with us in a previous podcast that ‘being deeply connected’ and ‘present in the relationship‘ is really 99% of the relationship. And we know that the Relationship is the most important aspect of Floortime. Franz Jacob is attuning to his client and his needs starting with simply observing his client.

He also says he is following his client’s lead–an essential part of Floortime. By observing what the client is doing or is interested in, he can modify his responses to the client, such as laying on the floor to cut his hair to be with his client in a way that makes the client feel comfortable.

“If you do the extra mile for them, they will want to come back because they will enjoy (it).”

Franz Jacob gets the ‘R’ in the DIR model: Relationship. By building up trust with his clients, he knows that he is building a bond and a trusting relationship that will make his client feel safe and want to engage with him in the future.

“It’s the moment that has been captured that really amazed me.”

Franz Jacob is able to self-reflect on his connection with his client. He acknowledges that a magical moment was captured on film in which he and his client were in harmony.

“I’m just doing my best on a daily basis to all my customers.”

We can truly hear in the CBC audio interview that Franz Jacob brings his best to his work on a regular basis, and goes with the flow. It is really all we can do. He is adapting in the moment and focusing on the connection. Bravo to him!

“I’m happy to have the chance to talk about Wyatt and my barber shop and everything around that.”

Franz Jacob is takes a client-centred approach. Notice that when he mentions what he is happy to talk about, he lists his client first, and his shop and the situation around it second. He is a true professional.

While Franz Jacob may have never heard of Floortime or the DIR model (that I know of), he is a shining example of how it can be applied in everyday life. He is indeed “an everyday hero”. Thank you, sir, and thank you to CBC for highlighting this uplifting story.

If you enjoyed reading this lovely example of human connection, please consider sharing it on Facebook or Twitter, below, and feel free to write any comments below.

Until next week… here’s to affecting autism through playful interactions!

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