Autism doesn’t magically end when a child graduates high school.
Rather, it’s a lifelong social and communicative disability that people have to live with forever.
Central Jersey native Jaclyn Hunt realized that several years ago, and has since made it her life’s mission to provide adults on the spectrum with tools to navigate life with their disability.
“Most people on the Autism spectrum are thrown out into the world and expected to succeed — but many struggle tremendously. So I’m trying to change that.”
Hunt saw a need for her business while studying to become a marriage and family therapist.
“I was extremely frustrated that everything I was learning had absolutely no effect on my own relationship,” said Hunt, who has her master’s in psychology and therapy.
“In all of my therapy training, there was not one course in Autism. The only thing taught to us about Autism was the textbook definition.”
Hunt and her husband would soon come to find out that he was on the Autism spectrum.
While Hunt says her husband was always very good at finding employment, and now is the owner of a highly-successful lighting company, he struggled with relationship skills and friendship building skills.
“If it was happening to us,” said Hunt, "it was happening to others."
And so, Hunt went on to become a certified life coach for individuals on the Autism spectrum, eventually opening her Colonia-based coaching business in 2013.
“One in every 42 children born today will be somewhere on the autism spectrum,” Hunt said. “The statistics are high. There are a lot of kids growing into adulthood and need these life skills and friendship skills — and that is my passion.
“Very few people were doing things to help them.”
In 2018, Hunt expanded her coaching business, bringing on a team of coaches from across the U.S. who — using video conferencing — teach real-life skills to individuals on the spectrum or with special needs.
Coaches will work one-on-one with clients on a variety of skills ranging from personal hygiene, social safety and time management, to more advanced skills, such as job interview techniques, dating and relationships and creating a business.
“This is life coaching,” Hunt explained. “The reason it’s called that is because we as coaches wear many hats.
“Some clients want to focus on relationships. Others their job and career. Some want to focus on every-day living skills and being able to get up and make their bed. Others want that non-verbal language communication, which doesn’t come naturally to many people on the spectrum.
“Life coaching is a very proactive, step-by-step process building skills from the ground up.”
Aside from helping those on the Autism spectrum, Hunt serves as their advocate.
Autism, she explained, is unlike any other disability in that it’s invisible.
“If you met someone blind or deaf, you can see their disability and accommodate them,” Hunt said.
“But Autism is invisible — you can’t see it with your eyes.
“Very often you’ll meet someone on the spectrum who seems normal and intelligent, who has a good job. But then they come off as awkward or say something inappropriate — their body language doesn’t match what they’re saying, or they will misinterpret you.”
Because of these gaps in social skills and communication, neuro-typical people tend to mis-judge individuals on the spectrum.
“I hope to somehow raise awareness that Autism in adulthood is an invisible disability,” said Hunt. “Someday, insurance companies will pay for this type of service, and more funding will become available to help adults on the Autism spectrum.”
Lauren Rosenblum works as a life coach for Hunt, says the community she has created for adults who have Autism has been life changing.
"Jaclyn clearly knows what she’s doing and understands the unique needs of this adult population, which tends to be such a forgotten population the second they graduate from the school system," Rosenblum said.
"She has also created this amazing community among her clients and coaches beyond the one-on-one coaching sessions. Everyone gets to participate in a monthly group Zoom, where all of the coaches and clients come together to chat.
"It’s amazing for the clients to have the opportunity to connect with other adults going through similar experiences as them and to go from feeling isolated and different to finally feeling relatable and understood."
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