“What happens when the school bus stops coming,” is one of the heartfelt questions parents Gary Moore and Dan Selec, and many other parents, ask themselves as their children with disabilities near adulthood. For years unemployment of persons with disabilities has been a dismal 70%, but last year, the Department of Labor data showed that in one year, unemployment of this population rose to 80% making a grim future ever grimmer. An estimated 90% of those diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are unemployed per data shared at the Autism Works National Conference.
“We can’t wait for change,” warns parent Gary Moore, a parent of a child on the spectrum. Dan Selec, a fellow parent of a son with ASD, agreed and together they founded the Nonpareil Institute in Plano, Texas which not only teaches technical skills to those with ASD to help improve their employability, but for some students, provides employment as well. Their story and vision of empowerment is now being shared through their film: “Programming Hope,” premiering in San Diego tonight, February 3, 2016, at 7:30 pm at the Landmark Theater in Hillcrest.
Existing adult transition, vocational, educational and community partner programs are not working to meaningfully employ persons with disabilities. Compounding this unemployment crisis is that the number of young adults entering the job market with disabilities is also rising, especially those diagnosed with ASD. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2000 approximately 1 in 150 were diagnosed with Autism; by 2014, those numbers had risen to 1 in 45. The unemployment rate coupled with the rising diagnoses of persons with disabilities suggests that current supports in place are insufficient.
Parents Moore and Selec knew something had to be done and done quickly. What started as a few students in Selec’s kitchen in 2009, has grown into a postsecondary educational safe haven for hundreds of students with ASD since it began. Annually, the Plano Institute works with approximately 160 students in its Plano location, and their Houston school, launched in 2015, already has almost 40 students who work together learning software programming, animation, and other technological skills. NonPareil also has a writing program now available and hopes to build programs in food preparation and other areas that develop needed and reliable employment skills.
The premiere in San Diego is part of a nationwide effort by NonPareil to increase awareness about its program and the capabilities of young adults with ASD. When asked about whether NonPareil will be starting a school in San Diego any time soon, Moore replied,“We are always exploring other locations, including San Diego. Any location we consider has to be safe for our kids and that is one of the appealing things about San Diego.” Although no immediate plans are underway for expansion outside of Texas, many local residents remain hopeful that the hope provided in Texas will soon be provided in our own backyard. No doubt families attending the premiere tonight will be there with their fingers crossed.
1 hrs, 40 minutes
7:30 pm, Landmark Theaters (Hillcrest, 2/3/16)
Click here for tickets
Official Movie trailer