SPOTLIGHT ON… nonPareil Institute
Visionary Technical & Life Training for Adults on the Autism Spectrum
For the parent of a child with autism spectrum disorder, the question of his or her future looms large. What will happen to my son or daughter as an adult? What can I do to maximize his or her potential? Dan Selec and Gary Moore were two such parents, brought together by a shared interest in carving out a better future for their children. Their pursuit led to a wonderful discovery. Each saw in his child a passion for technology and gaming, and over time they realized there were many other parents who had seen a similar interest in their autistic child! Dan and Gary were driven to find a way to capture this talent and channel it for more – and they succeeded, unlocking a vision for their children and many others.
What began as an idea from two dedicated and insightful fathers, has now become the nonPareil Institute – a place where students on the autism spectrum can learn technical training that harnesses their love of technology and provides a fulfilling job.
Their Mission Statement:
nonPareil Institute is dedicated to providing technical training, employment and housing to individuals who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. We hope to one day be partially self-sustaining from the products our Crew build and market.
The initiative of founders Dan Selec and Gary Moore has been an inspiring success; in just a few short years, an evening class of 8 students at the Selec’s kitchen table became a full-time operation on the SMU Campus in Plano. Some students, or “Crewmembers” as they are called, have even come from out-of-state to take part in this revolutionary program. The “Crew”, now over 150 members large, has created six commercial apps (IOS and Android) available for purchase in the iTunes store and the Android store, published three books, and has much more in production.
As if this wasn’t impressive enough, nonPareil is forging ahead to reach even more individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder – those that are either uninterested or not quite ready to begin technical training. This new endeavor is called the Lifespark Program and, as with all of nonPareil’s programs, will serve individuals 18 years or older and not attending high school. The Lifespark Program will aim to educate and equip students in non-technical skills. The inaugural course of the Lifespark Program is called ESSENTIALS, and aims to prepare students for independent living. Practical and engaging instruction will focus on communication and teamwork, basic technology skills, safety, relationship building, food preparation, and so much more. Further development plans include opening campuses in other cities and states, and additional programming for automotive repair, culinary arts, and engineering.
How exciting is all this? Consider some statistics from the advocacy organization Autism Speaks:
- 1 in 88 children have autism spectrum disorder
- 80% of adults with autism spectrum disorder lack employment opportunities
- 70% of adults with autism spectrum disorder will not be able to live independently
- In the next 10 years, approximately 500,000 children with autism will become adults
nonPareil exists to change these statistics on employment and independent living opportunities with a model of productive and stimulating training, and eventually a safe residential community. It is inspiring to see the positive impact being made for so many.
This program may be one you would like to pursue for your child; it’s never too early to begin thinking about your child’s future – especially when most plans include some financial investment. Whether your child will want go on to college, or to a place like the nonPareil Institute, you’ll want to be able to help make that happen. Comprehensive special needs planning aims ensure that your child’s continued education is achievable financially when the time comes.
If you, or someone you know, are interested in learning more about nonPareil, see www.npitx.org.