Saturday, December 18, 2010

Young people with autism train for IT careers at nonPareil Institute in Texas

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In the photo, nonPareil co-founders Dan Selec, right, and Gary Moore.

PLANO, Texas -- What began as the worry of two career IT men worried about the futures of their young children, both diagnosed with autism, is beginning to bear fruit for the co-founders of a Plano nonprofit that wants to train high-functioning young adults for high-paying work in fields such as video gaming and computer graphics.

The nonPareil Instiute – nonPareil meaning unparallled – received its 501(c) nonprofit status in May, secured an anonymous $200,000 donation from the parent of a child with autism, and, using part of that money, opened a small training center at SMU in Plano last month.

The institute started with one student a year ago, working out of the breakfast nook at the Plano home of co-founder Dan Selec. Today, it has 20, with students learning fundamental computer language at workstations at the Plano campus.

The students have produced two games – TicTacToe! and Space Paranoids! – that are available on nonPareil’s web site, The students also are working on two iPhone applications. One will be available for $1 in the Apple iTunes store this month, and the second in December or January, said Selec, nonPareil’s CEO, and Gary Moore, co-founder and president. For competitive reasons, they’re not disclosing anything about the apps yet.

Selec and Moore have teenage sons with autism.

"Any parent of a child with a disability wonders what happens after I’m gone?" said Selec, 47, whose son Caleb is 13.

The two men hold no illusions that their children and students will function effectively in a standard work environment, with autism causing significant problems in socialization.

At the same time, many high-functioning people with autism and a variant, Asperger’s Syndrome, gravitate toward technology, opening up high-paying career potential, Selec and Moore, whose son Andrew is 14, said.

"It’s not that they have an inability to work," Selec said. "Most of their issues really revolve around environment and socialization."