George Fox professor, Texas software company team up to bring training program for young adults on autism spectrum to Oregon
The popularity of a nonprofit software company’s technical training program for young adults diagnosed on the autism spectrum has already generated national attention in publications ranging from Family Circle to USA Today. Now, the company is set to expand far beyond its Texas roots – about 2,000 miles beyond, to be exact.
The Plano, Texas-based organization nonPareil Institute is partnering with George Fox professor Justine Haigh to bring a branch of its program to the Northwest, a region with one of the highest autism rates among 6- to 17-year-olds in America, according to data reported by the U.S. Department of Education.
Currently based on Southern Methodist University’s satellite campus in Plano, nonPareil specializes in providing technical training, employment and housing to individuals who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. It was founded by two parents of children with autism who recognized the fact that young adults diagnosed with autism tend to have an aptitude and interest in computer programming but often cannot work in a regular office environment.
The program is booming in Texas, with admission applications topping 1,000. Several families have even moved to Plano to increase their chances of entrance into the program.
Inspired by her son Daniel, business professor Justine Haigh works to help those living with autism find their place. Read the Story
Expansion to Oregon
Now the plan is to expand to Oregon, thanks in part to the efforts of Haigh, a professor in George Fox’s College of Business who is mother to Daniel, a teenager diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Haigh learned of nonPareil last year and worked with company leaders to bring a two-day computer programming camp to the school’s Newberg, Ore., campus in the spring.
To gauge interest, a town hall meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 22, at the eBay offices in downtown Portland, at 1400 S.W. 5th Ave. The meeting is scheduled on the building’s third floor from 7 to 9 p.m. The agenda will be to discuss the logistics of bringing nonPareil to Oregon. The public is invited to attend.
The need for such a program is evident: According to the National Autism Society, approximately 90 percent of American adults on the autism spectrum are unemployed or underemployed and 70 percent will be unable to live independently.
“nonPareil is about taking these guys and putting them in an environment that works for them – one that promotes mutual respect and teamwork,” said nonPareil founder and CEO Dan Selec. Selec reports that 38 states have expressed an interest in establishing a nonPareil program.
The expansion to Oregon was kick-started by Haigh, who is raising funds and awareness by contacting the Technology Association of Oregon, area schools and university colleagues, all of whom could provide the research and materials needed for the venture. If the funds and support emerge, a local nonPareil campus could be set up within the year.
For more information on nonPareil, contact Haigh, associate professor of marketing at George Fox, at 503-554-2808. Visit facebook.com/nonPareilPortland to learn more about the proposed expansion to Portland.