‘It really bothered me watching children crying and sometimes getting sick in the barber’s chair’

What I Do: Maggie Radecka provides a hairdressing service for children with sensory issues, to help take the fear out of getting a haircut

I came to Ireland from Poland in 2007. It was really just to visit my sister. It was so different from Poland. I liked hearing people say “hello” to a random person on the street. In Ireland, it looked like everybody knew each other. I stayed.

I did my hairdressing apprenticeship in Poland and I’ve been working around Inchicore for 15 years. At first, it was at a very nice neighbourhood barber. That’s what I liked about it, you had the same customers coming back.

I saw many children who had a fear of hair cutting. You don’t have to be diagnosed with anything to be afraid. It’s not just children, many adults absolutely hate getting their hair cut.

For children with sensory processing disorder, it’s not just the sound of the razor they are afraid of. It could be touch around the ears, on the back of the neck, the feel of hair falling. Then there are the sounds, the textures, the smells. They can be overwhelmed. A stranger comes smiling into your face and then straight away with the clippers – it has to be very scary for them.


It really bothered me watching barbers who felt they had to do the haircut by all means, with parents holding children down because they didn’t know any other way. Children crying and sometimes getting sick in the chair, it was just breaking my heart.

When I opened my own barber shop with my sister, I was able to do something. After the Covid lockdowns, you would have a few parents every day with these problems. I was thinking this is a big problem, much bigger than it used to be. We had the space in the salon, so I decided to give those children a room for themselves, and we set up Cut & Fun.

I trained myself in autism awareness and booked courses in sensory processing disorder, ADHD and Down syndrome. I talked to parents to find out more from them as well.

Children can be scared coming in but when they see that room full of beautiful light and friendly colours with a soft floor, their eyes are happier. From talking to parents, I found out about special interests – we have a drawer of cars and a drawer of dinosaurs. Straight away, the child gets distracted, a connection with us happens, we try to become friends with them before the service begins.

I just can’t believe how many emotions the parents have to go through. There was a mum recently stressing about the haircut happening in two weeks. The parents of children who are scared of haircuts have a fear of their child’s reaction. They need space where they feel safe and nobody is judging them. It’s not a tantrum, it’s a meltdown, and they need somebody who is going to understand that.

We want the child to feel absolutely comfortable here. It doesn’t matter what they need to do to feel better, we just let them do it

Having problems during a haircut doesn’t mean your child needs an assessment. We are all sensory beings and we all struggle with something.

I always say to the parents, forget how it was before. We don’t expect your child to stay still or be quiet. If your child wants something, we will let them have it. If they want to take their clothes off, they are allowed. We want the child to feel absolutely comfortable here. It doesn’t matter what they need to do to feel better, we just let them do it. They can lie down on the floor, they can splash water. I just try to follow them with my clippers.

I cut one piece at a time and we move gradually from one distraction to another. Sometimes it takes five minutes, sometimes it takes an hour, but we play together. Sometimes we exercise, sometimes we dance.

Yesterday, we came up with a way of giving a child a haircut by giving him a trigger point ball massage on his back. He absolutely loved the deep pressure and this was the first time his mother discovered that. She said, I can do this every single time when he can’t sleep.

When you are able to do it, and you have the parent crying and hugging you and the children are happy, it just makes you feel a little bit like a superhero

I meet so many parents and they tell me how they deal with sensory stuff – simple things such as baths, hair brushing, dressing or eating. Other parents tell me their problems and I can tell them what the other customers have said. It’s nice.

We have people coming from Galway, Wexford and Cork for haircuts. While the hairdressing industry is ready for inclusion, we need more people to be trained, so I do coaching and mentoring for other hairdressers too. The dream is to have at least one hairdresser that is going to provide these services in every single town.

Helping people with a simple haircut can be life-changing for a family. I know a mum with three children who are autistic and don’t like haircuts. It must be very difficult for her. So when you are able to do it, and you have the parent crying and hugging you and the children are happy, it just makes you feel a little bit like a superhero.

I entered the world of neurodiversity and I had no idea that it existed. You learn so many things. I love absolutely everything about my job, from the start to the end. – In conversation with Joanne Hunt

Bryan O'Brien

Bryan O'Brien

Bryan O’Brien is Chief Video Journalist at The Irish Times