OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — If you have a child with autism, you know sensory issues can sometimes be overwhelming – even with something as simple as a haircut. But one Oklahoma hair stylist seems to have the magic touch to help kids stay calm.
Stylist Alley Mitchell charms children of all abilities at Pigtails and Crewcuts in Oklahoma City, where the kids call her “Ms. Alley.”
One of her regular customers is 20-month-old Zoryn Hornburger.
“He is autistic. He does not love haircuts, that is his least favorite thing,” said Randi Hornburger, Zoryn’s mom. “He does not like to be touched, he does not like to make eye contract or engage. He does not like to sit still for a single second.”
Behind his beautiful blue eyes, Zoryn experiences life in his own way. “He’s completely non-verbal,” Randi added.
Until recently, she says haircuts were traumatic for them both. “He would have to be held down and he would scream. It would break your heart a little bit,” she said.
But then, through the Oklahoma Autism Parents Support Group, parents began recommending Ms. Alley. “If he’s upset, she’ll follow him around and let him play and she’ll get on her knees to finish the haircut,” Randi said.
While Zoryn plays, Ms. Alley works wonders – snipping away with the scissors and using quieter clippers, all with a very gentle touch.
She also sings, blows bubbles and plays with them on the floor. She excels at the art of distraction.
“She is a miracle worker.” So, Randi nominated Alley for a Pay It 4Ward award from First Fidelity Bank.
“There needs to be more Ms. Alleys in the world, for what she’s done for your kid, for your family, and for so many other kiddos in the community. And we’re so excited for you to get this opportunity to pay it forward,” said bank representative Jason Hawkins, handing $400 to Randi to present to Alley.
Randi, Jason and our News 4 crew surprised Ms. Alley at the salon, as she was preparing for her next appointment.
“Hi! I’m Heather Holeman with Channel 4. You have an 11 o’clock haircut, but really, it’s for us!” Heather said.
Randi then handed the money to Alley. “We just wanted you to know how much we appreciate you and value you, and how great you are with [Zoryn] and all the other kids.”
Alley replied, “Thank you, you’re so sweet! It’s seriously a passion, like, kids seriously make my day. Kids lead the way here, so my personal thing that I say here is that I have no rules. So, I’ll play with them, chase them, the moms hold them, whatever.”
She’ll even cut their hair in their car if it makes the child more comfortable! Connecting with kids of all abilities is Ms. Alley’s calling – and her magic touch comes naturally.
“I have an 8-year-old who is on the spectrum and has sensory issues. So, having firsthand experience, just being kind, patient, just knowing that they’re different. They’re eccentric is what they are. It’s the best word that I’ve found. They’re eccentric little human beings. Just stopping to take the time to understand what they want, busting out bubbles,” she continued.
“You’re being a blessing,” Ms. Alley said to Zoryn, while sneaking in a few swipes of her quiet clippers. But Randi says, it’s Alley who is the blessing.
“Ms. Alley is magic,” Randi said.
“They do more for me than I do for them, I promise you,” Alley replied, as Zoryn and Randi left the appointment with a hug and a smile.
If you know someone deserving of a Pay It 4Ward award, you can nominate them here.
Pay It 4Ward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.