FOURTEEN ladies with special needs are fast becoming fabulous hairdressers and beauticians, thanks to Sean Taaffe’s Hair and Beauty Salon in Killarney.
Sean’s sister, Amy, has Down Syndrome and her talent during her work experience at the salon gave him the idea to offer the opportunity to members of Down Syndrome Kerry.
The young women have been learning how to shampoo, condition, blow-dry and even massage, using each other as models, and are becoming more confident in the work environment every week, with top notch customer communication skills.
Financed entirely by Sean and his team at The Hair Academy, the six-week course is huge “fun” for the girls, said enthusiastic Head Tutor Aisling Madigan. “It’s great to bring this enjoyment to them.” Michelle O’Connor, Sean Taaffe’s beauty therapist, has taught the girls how to prepare their skin and do their own makeup. They have also been trained in the art of up-styles and hair curling.
Patricia Griffin, Education Officer for Down Syndrome Ireland, shares a “common bond” with Sean Taaffe, because her son Cathal has Down Syndrome. She was delighted at his suggestion to offer a pilot scheme and commends his constant support for Down Syndrome Ireland. “It has been a marvellous experience for the participants to see what it is like to work in a salon,” she smiles. “The response [to the course] exceeded our expectations.”
She encourages employers and other businesses, big or small, to offer opportunities to people with intellectual disabilities. She declared that “great credit” is due to Sean Taaffe for giving these ladies “the chance to get real employment.” If people with special needs are taught in small steps with the appropriate support, Patricia adds, they prove to be very valuable employees.
Sean Taaffe’s Hair and Beauty has gone from strength to strength since the one-man business started in Langford Street, Killorglin, in 1989. Now expanded to a team of over 40 professionals, he has opened salons in Killarney and Tralee. He believes that “anyone with a desire and passion for hairdressing should be encouraged to pursue that dream.”
24-year-old Sharon O’Sullivan from Milltown very much enjoyed working in the Sean Taaffe salon. “My favourite thing was learning how to do different types of hairstyles – for instance, curls and plaits,” said Sharon. “The other girls were mad about my hair! I found it very interesting. It was something new. I will try out what I learned at home.”