If they are lucky - and if they have a strong network of support - children with autism might be able to successfully navigate their school-aged years to learn and thrive with their peers. But what happens when these children graduate from the school system and have to navigate through the challenges of adult life?
According to a study in the journal Pediatrics, only 55 percent of young adults with autism held down a job in the six years after they graduated from high school. Only 35 percent attended a two or four year college.
The new definition of autism encompasses a broad range of conditions and symptoms. But even kids with only mild developmental or social impairments may find it extremely difficult to land a career or pursue a field of study in college.
Enter the nonPareil Institute in Plano, Texas. The institute was the brainchild of Dan Selec - father of a 16-year-old son with autism. Selec wanted more for his son than just getting through each day. He wanted his intelligent and tech-savvy son - Caleb- to have a career that was engaging yet flexible to his needs. So Selec, a software engineer, started teaching Caleb, and other interested autistic kids, how to design apps and games. In time, Selec launched the nonPareil Institute as a tech company where autistic adults could learn new skills, develop talents, and build a career that could sustain them for a lifetime.
And the idea is catching on.
At present, the nonPareil Institute - the name chosen because it means a "person or thing with no equal match," has 135 students. Most classes are taught by former students. And the staff programmers, also former students, have sold a collective five apps and three ebooks.
Selec would like to expand the nonPareil concept to other areas of Texas and maybe even beyond. He would also like to expand the types of classes and work offered to meet the needs of the diverse autism community. Cooking, engineering, auto repair - the sky's the limit.
Just as it should be for any young adult setting out in life.
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