Aaliyah Thompson (center) is a licensed hair technician and CEO of Aaliyah’s Beauty Bar — located at 3797 Ga. Highway 138 Suite F in Stockbridge. Thompson is considered the first Black entrepreneur on the autism spectrum to open a beauty school..

Hard work is paying off for one Hampton resident who has not let her battle against autism defy her odds in the workplace.

Aaliyah Thompson is a licensed hair technician and CEO of Aaliyah’s Beauty Bar — located at 3797 GA 138 Suite F in Stockbridge — despite an autism spectrum disorder that often presents challenges with social communication and interaction, and problems with restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests.

Thompson was first diagnosed at age 5, but the early diagnosis has not stopped the 21-year-old from pursuing her passion for beauty care services. It is an endeavor that Thompson discovered as she worked under her mother’s wing at the Touched by an Angel Beauty School and Salon in Jonesboro.

“My mom has had that salon in the Clayton County area for 30 years, and my sister has her salon in Stockbridge, so I have been in a salon since I was very young,” Thompson said.

Aaliyah’s Beauty Bar caters to a wide variety of hair and beauty needs — such as makeup and nails — on a walk-in basis, without need for an appointment. The Dutchtown High School honors graduate is also working toward getting her state license as a nail technician, and most recently opened a nail school of her own — as a way to give back to her community and aid others with challenges.

“The whole cosmetology program can take some time (up to a year) for those with autism,” her mother, Patricia Terry, said.

“That’s the reason Aaliyah opened up the nail school. With the book work you would have to slow it down, but with this program it doesn’t seem like they are in school a long time. It is something they could get a trade in quicker and give them the opportunity to show they know what to do.”

Thompson runs the school with volunteer services from others licensed in the field. She takes pride in her partnerships, specifically with the onboarding of her speech pathologist who would help each student at the Jonesboro school strengthen their interpersonal skills.

“She’s been a speech pathologist for 21 years and has been working with Aaliyah for a while,” Terry said regarding the partnership. “Now she wants to come fully on board (at the nail school).”

Belinda Weir is excited about the opportunity. The speech pathologist, who has been volunteering her time twice a week to the students, believes that Thompson can be a game changer in her community.

“It is very exciting to see Aaliyah doing what she is doing,” Weir said.

“I find that just breaking those boundaries is a good marker. We need that in our time, and she has done that so well.”

Source: Henry Herald

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