By Joseph Smith
Frank Antoine started cutting hair in Bonner Hall at KU during his freshman year. Now, he is looking to change the way we view autism.
Antoine’s younger brother has autism, and Antoine wanted to help as much as he could. He said his brother is his motive for founding Fading Autism, a non-profit, in 2015. It was even his senior capstone project with the intent to raise autism awareness.
He began by going to support groups in the area and meeting with families who were affected by autism. It was there that he started to cut the autistic kids’ hair for free, even going as far as driving to the families’ homes.
It moved on from there when Antoine graduated from KU with a B.A. in communication studies and got a job at the local City Cuts Barbershop. While there, he continued to service families affected by autism in the local area with haircuts.
He would cut hair before City Cuts opened to make sure he had time to help the families. His service would continue to grow from here and gain him more recognition throughout the community.
Since one of the symptoms of autism is sensitivity to sound, Antoine used multiple exercises and atmosphere changes to make the customer more comfortable.
Eventually, Antoine decided to depart from City Cuts and start his own barbershop on Main St. named Fading Autism (FA). “F.A. are my initials,” Antoine said in regards to the name. Here, he is continuing his journey of spreading autism awareness.
On Sundays, he continues his practice of cutting autistic children’s and adults’ hair. Families fill out an information form online before arriving at the shop for children diagnosed with ASD who want a free haircut from a licensed barber.
He introduces new clients with practices like combing exercises to get them comfortable with the idea of getting a haircut. This helps Antoine become acquainted with his client and overall better their experience. Antoine also puts on TV shows such as “Blue’s Clues” or “SpongeBob Squarepants” to make the haircut more enjoyable for his younger clients.
Antoine also runs multiple events for autism awareness as he wants to make FA much more than just haircuts. One of these events being the Fading Autism Fall-Fest.
Antoine participates in the events because he hopes to get the community more involved with the cause.
Antoine was quoted as saying that the main focus of FA is to “provide social awareness” so that autism can become more normalized with the public.
Summarized in Antoine’s own words, “On Sundays here at the barbershop I function as a 501c3 [non-profit], but Tuesday through Saturday, it’s a barbershop.”
More information about Antoine and Fading Autism can be found at fadingautism.org.