LSU communication-disorders student, Madeline Johnson, discovered her passion with the help of Dylan, a teenage boy with Down syndrome.

“I have been so lucky to watch him grow up and learn,” said Johnson.

Johnson worked as Dylan’s caregiver for 3 years.

“I just made sure that his day outside of school was engaging and stimulating play, and we would go to the swimming pool or we would go get snow cones,” said Johnson. “I made sure he had a normal summer just like any other kid.”

But, unlike any other kid, Dylan inspired her career dreams.

“Well, Dylan has bad hair,” said Johnson. “I asked his dad about it one time, and he said that sometimes special needs kids just don’t get the same treatment in a hair salon that a neurotypical kid would.”

To ensure the inclusivity of the Special Needs and Deaf communities, Johnson hopes to one day open a hair salon for neurodiverse children called “Able.”

“It would just be really minimalistic and small so that, if they have any sensitivities to colors and sounds, it would not be a problem there,” said Johnson.

Johnson’s boss, owner of Kaleidoscope Hair Salon, believes she demonstrates exceptional qualities of a hair stylist as well.

“Because she cares, especially with what she wants to do,” said Lovetro. “She has a very caring heart, and I feel like people who are around her become happier and brighter because of her.”

Because of Johnson’s communication-disorders background, she has already begun including and uniting the neurodiverse, deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.

“So Madeline started up a club that she calls ‘Hands that Hear,’” said Whitney Sutherland, one of Madeline’s communication disorders professors. “Hands that Hear was a way for us to have students on campus learn about the Deaf community, Deaf culture.”

From signing to shampooing, Johnson is continuing to train for a barber’s license, and she thanks Dylan for teaching her what she relies on most, patience.

“If you just have an ample amount of patience and you acknowledge that their needs matter just as much as everyone else’s, they can have the salon experience that everybody deserves,” said Johnson.

For now, Johnson continues to grow in the skills she will need to be “able” to include all communities in the salon experience.

Johnson hopes to progress past shampooing to learn coloring in the upcoming months and expects to start gaining her own clientele as well.