New hair salon caters to children with autism

by April Lisante
Posted 12/30/21

This is the story of one woman’s mission, a mission that called her to a craft, then a career, and finally, to a dream she has just recognized.

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New hair salon caters to children with autism


This is the story of one woman’s mission, a mission that called her to a craft, then a career, and finally, to a dream she has just recognized.

For years, Erdenheim resident Laura Maxwell dreamed of having a salon where she could not only cut hair, but also fulfill a calling that began when she was in high school.

As a teen growing up in Wyndmoor, she volunteered in a special needs classroom at Springfield Township High School during her free time, working with children who had severe disabilities. After attending Temple University and receiving a BS in education, she thought she would become a special education teacher. But she knew one of the things she’d always wanted to do was to professionally cut hair. So following college, she attended the Ambler Beauty Academy, and suddenly, the same calling that led her to cut hair made her passion to help others come full circle.

“I had a mentor in high school and I would watch her cut hair and I thought it was the coolest thing,” said Maxwell. “She would work at different angles, and change styles and she was always laughing.”

She began working with her mentor and fell in love with the business.

“I loved everything,” she said. “Literally everything.”

Hair cutting was her natural ability. But it is a specific gift that continues to make Maxwell so sought after locally. After years working in the hair-cutting business, she became very good at one specific type of haircut: those for autistic children. She knew how to calm the children as they sat in her salon chair. She even went to an autistic school to do the haircuts on-site so the children felt comfortable.

This month, the Erdenheim mother of three opened Hairapy By Laura at 808 Bethlehem Pike in Erdenheim, just beside the Bagel House. The small, unassuming salon has just two client chairs, and she is the sole proprietor and worker, proud to be opening just before the holiday season.

“People had to keep shoving me and encouraging me” to open the business, Maxwell said.

“I want this to be a safe place for them,” she said. “Because I am a one-person salon I want them to be able to come in and not be scared, and to get a haircut and enjoy their experience instead of being terrified.”

The salon will cater to all local families as well as to autistic children. One of the tools of her trade is her “calming clippers,” a noise-free version of buzzers that get the haircut done without the trauma of the loud noise. Clients know she can relate to autistic children and calm them.

“People have told me it is the way I am with the kids that they just have a comfort with me,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell tells the children step by step what she will do before she begins a haircut, and eliminates things like the decibel level of the electric buzz clippers. The safety-style scissors she uses look like a glorified comb that she calls a “funny comb.” Keeping the atmosphere calm and the noise level to a minimum is critical. 

She opened this month and brought with her a loyal clientele of families who come with their children to experience the bright and airy and salon, with a coloring table and chairs to one side and small seats and sinks that are perfect for little ones lining the walls. The salon is not only for autistic children but for families and locals who want to experience a fabulous haircut in a cozy environment.

“It’s a family salon,” she said. “You come in for a family experience, and you are relaxed.”

Hairapy By Laura, 808 Bethlehem Pike, Erdenheim, Pa. 215-377-9365.