DOZENS of autistic children got their hair cut in Paisley yesterday, many of them for the first time ever.

Harassed parents flocked to meet the Welsh barber known as "Jim the Trim", who has become a minor internet sensation after uploading a video of himself persuading a boy in his Port Talbot salon to allow him to cut his hair. It was shared 2.5 million times.

That child, Mason, eventually let James Williams get to work with his scissors after the hairdresser dropped to the floor and lay on his belly, while the boy browsed a handheld computer.

Many children with symptoms which place them on the autistic spectrum find a visit to a hair salon almost unbearable, either because the feel of hair being snipped is physically painful to them, because they just can't cope with others invading their personal pace, or simply fear interacting with strangers.

As a result there has been huge interest in Jim's techniques, which have also included cutting his own hair to demonstrate it is nothing to fear, cutting clients hair in the car, or following those who cant stay still around the salon, scissors in hand.

Many autistic children cannot tolerate noise or stimulation so clippers, hairdryers and scented hair products are often avoided. Wearing unfamiliar clothes - such as a plastic gown - can also cause huge distress, making a trip to the hairdressers a dreaded ordeal for families.

In Paisley, two local barbers and one from Edinburgh joined Jim and six of his fellow barbers from across England and Wales to form a group: Autism Barbers Assemble, and the 40 one hour appointments were fully booked.

Veronica Colliety's son Callum, now seven, had never had his hair cut before. His Mum, chair of The National Autistic Society Scotland’s volunteer branch in Renfrewshire, said: "Callum doesn't like anybody coming too close to him," she said. "A lot of parents have had horrendous experiences taking their children to barbers who don't understand autism and have no patience.

"As a result, some parents will just try and cut their child's hair quickly with some clippers, but that is the worst thing to do and can look awful.

"Some children don't like touch and for some people on the spectrum cutting hair, or fingernails and toenails is really painful,"she said. "Added to that hairdressers can be fairly clinical unfriendly environments, and parents avoid that ordeal."

But parents who watched the videos of Jim on the internet were thrilled by his visit, she said. "Someone like James who understands autism really does make a difference. He gives longer appointments and is prepared to take his time and get to know the child, as well as setting sundays aside for people with autism, which means parents don't nave to deal with judgemental stares.

"This is partly about raising awareness of the condition but this is a big problem for families and that is why people travel for miles to come and see him."

James Williams said he had developed his autism specialism by accident after his success i figuring out how to approach Mason last November. "I thought - rather than this being a one- off let's make a stand," he said. "I'd like to create awareness in the industry and have more barbers realise that it is all about giving a service."

Parents are often grateful, he said, but affection from an autistic child is the real pay-off. "They develop friendships over a long time. I've had a high five off a few of the kids and that is massive. Mason now gives me hugs - to get that from an autistic child is unbelievable."

Jenny Paterson, director of The National Autistic Society Scotland, said: “Many autistic people have difficulty processing sensory information. Any of the senses may be over- or under-sensitive, or both, at different times. When having a haircut, the feeling of hands running through the hair, hair landing on the face or body, and the noise of the scissors could cause a lot of distress.

“I am absolutely delighted that James and his Autism Barbers assembled in Paisley. I hope that hairdressers and barbers across Scotland will be inspired by his technique.”