ROUYN NORANDA, Que. — The photo shows a bearded, tattooed barber lying on his side on the floor, using a pair of clippers to trim the hair of the young boy lying facedown beside him.
Francis “Franz” Jacob says it’s just part of a day’s work, but the barber from Rouyn-Noranda, Que. has become an unlikely celebrity after the boy’s mother posted the photo online to thank him for going out of his way to accommodate her son Wyatt, who has autism.
Jacob owns an old-fashioned barber shop that specializes in 1920 to 1950’s-style punk and rockabilly haircuts, but he says he’s also developed a connection with special needs clients like Wyatt.
“Each time I’m doing Wyatt’s hair, he’s always going on the ground, moving around, sitting on his mom’s lap, standing beside the chair,” said Jacob, 45.
“That’s why I have a wireless clipper now, because at first I had to follow Wyatt around and plug my clipper into (different outlets).”
Jacob opened his salon two years ago in the mining city some 600 kilometres northwest of Montreal.
Wyatt was his first client with autism, but since meeting him he’s taken on others.
“Each one has different needs and reactions, so each time it’s about adjusting to the client,” he said.
He also occasionally cuts hair for clients who are terminally ill.
The boy’s mother, Fauve Lafreniere, told CBC News that haircuts are a challenge for Wyatt because he moves a lot and can be hypersensitive to touch.
She said she posted the picture online in the hopes others would follow Jacob’s example in finding “other ways to approach differences.”
Jacob says he’s received countless messages and phone calls since the photo began to make its way around the Internet.
Since most of the photos taken at his shop are of slick rock-style haircuts, he’s glad people are getting to see another side of what he does.
“In this case you can see the extra mile that the barber is doing,” he said.
“I don’t mind going on the floor, I don’t see any difference between musicians or an autistic kid, it’s the same extra mile.”
– with files from Morgan Lowrie in Montreal.
The Canadian Press