It’s early in the morning when Amos Antoine, 20, mounts a barber’s chair. Amos is a big man, but he doesn’t say anything — he’s non-verbal. He must come for his haircut before the public shows up; extraneous stimuli gets him upset. Amos has autism spectrum disorder.
His brother Frankel, a 2010 East Stroudsburg High School North graduate and 2015 Kutztown University grad is a licensed barber on a mission. That mission is called Fading Autism. He gives haircuts to clients with autism spectrum disorder for free.
“It’s hard to communicate with him or understand what he’s trying to communicate,” Antoine said. “They are very sensitive to light and noise so he can’t be in any social setting. As a parent you have to keep that in mind.”
Before Antoine first started his endeavor, Amos’ haircuts took place in the home’s kitchen.
Their parents had to give Amos a haircut and it wasn’t a great haircut, Antoine said. So when he got his job at City Cuts Barber Shop in Kutztown, he set aside early Saturday mornings before the shop opened to give haircuts to autistic clients.
“In the morning time you can control things,” Frankel said. “You can control outbursts. I might be playing YouTube music if that’s what they like. You try to reduce the things you can’t control. It’s more calming that way. It’s also relieving for the parent because there’s no one there to judge. It’s the privacy aspect that’s relieving for the parents.”
Fading Autism’s mission statement is to provide convenient, quality and free haircuts for individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
“I combined my passion with cutting hair and that’s how Fading Autism came about,” Antoine said.
A simple haircut can change his clients life and help boost their self esteem.
Antoine helps about 27 families now. All haircuts are done on Saturday mornings for families in the area. All haircuts are done for free.
“My barber shop, they love it,” Antoine said. “They encourage me to pursue this passion of mine. It actually helps our business. It’s just one way we provide community service.”
Fading Autism is a play on words. ‘Fading’ is a specific style of haircut — where hair at the back and sides is cut closely with clippers and then tapered into the desired hair length on top. It also stands for taking away a burden for these families, giving them one less thing to worry about.
To book an appointment with Antoine, you must go to his Fading Autism website at www.fadingautism.org. Parents and caregivers must fill out a form, which includes name, age, what level of the spectrum the individual is on and hobbies, just to break the ice. Antoine follows up with a phone call to set up an appointment. He does about four to six haircuts a week for those with autism spectrum disorder.
Antoine’s goals are to inspire other licensed barbers to practice Fading Autism.
“Its my way to giving back to my brother and everyone like him,” Antoine said.