All Header Images © Daniel Voegelin http://www.danvoegelin.com/  
 
01/30/15

Making a place for disabled young adults to live, learn – Boston Globe – 3LPlace

Boghosian_autismhouse13_LIFE  3lpLogo_new_Break

By Bella English

Deborah Flaschen, a former Wall Street investment banker, was 16 when she enrolled at Tufts University and 20 when she graduated magna cum laude. When her son D.J., who has autism, turned 17, she started looking around at his options, but they were alarmingly limited. “There was nothing in Boston, not a place that I would choose to put him in,” says Flaschen.

The dilemma is one echoed by families of students with autism who, along with other young people with developmental delays, age out of services provided by school districts when they turn 22. Many are ill-prepared to live independently or hold a job. It is a problem that is expected to mushroom along with the growing number of children diagnosed with the disorder.

Lacking an option she felt comfortable with, Flaschen decided to create her own. The result: 3LPlace Life College near Tufts in Somerville for young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities, including Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. Experts in the field say that the Life College is the only one of its kind in Massachusetts, combining a residential and day program under one roof for young adults. With its ability to offer more comprehensive life-skills training, the new project underscores both how significant the need is for the students and how little is generally available.

“Once they turn 22, there’s no obligation unless the state decides they are eligible for adult services and that could be anything from full residential to not much at all,” says Tamar Lewis of Belmont, whose 22-year-old son recently moved into 3LPlace. “This place is a lifesaver. Most are either day or residential, not both, and you have to search for each.”

Nationwide, only 14 percent of adults with such disabilities have jobs outside a care facility. In Massachusetts, developmentally disabled adults are less than half as likely as their peers to be employed at all — and those who are generally work at minimum wage jobs with no benefits.

The demand for programs such as 3LPlace is likely to increase. Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it affects 1 in 68 people — a 30 percent increase from two years ago. It is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behavior. Some people have intellectual challenges, attention and motor coordination problems, as well as physical and emotional issues.

According to a 2012 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than half of those on the spectrum did not work or attend school in the two years after high school, 79 percent lived with their parents, 60 percent received some therapy and counseling, but nearly 40 percent got no services at all.

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DJ Flaschen (cq) 24 (left), looks in a mirror with his art therapist Meghan Montgomery (cq) at 3LPlace Life College Residence in Somerville. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

‘I always wanted a whole life for my son. I don’t see that he and my daughter need different opportunities.’

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“Parents describe it as a black hole, this crater that opens up in front of us and we fall into it,” says June Peoples Mallon, communications and development director at 3LPlace Inc., who has a 15-year-old daughter on the autism spectrum. “The sad fact is that the outcome without some sort of intervention is pretty unrelentingly grim for these young adults and their aging parents, and statistics reflect that.”

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Shaving and hand washing instructions in the bathroom at 3LPlace Life College Residence in Somerville. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

The few options, she says, include a Medicaid-funded program called “day habitation,” which provides care and some training in group settings, and some state programs that provide vocational help for higher-functioning students, mostly for low-paying, part-time jobs. Some people, she says, “just hang out at home with their parents.”

In Massachusetts, funding from the Department of Developmental Services goes first to the most severely disabled. Preference often goes to families who sent their children to residential schools, so that when they turn 22, they are more likely to get residential funding as an adult “edging out families who have made big sacrifices for years to care for their developmentally disabled children at home, and who are likely to find themselves continuing in the role of caregiver of their adult child,” says Mallon.

Planning for 3LPlace started in 2008, when Flaschen and her husband, David, looked for a placement for D.J., who was diagnosed with autism 20 years ago when he was 4. The couple met while working on their MBAs at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. They also have a 26-year-old daughter, who works for TripAdvisor in Cambridge.

“I always wanted a whole life for my son,” says Flaschen, 59, who lives in Brookline. “I don’t see that he and my daughter need different opportunities.”

But when she began looking, she found nothing that helped the transition to adulthood and from home to the community. So, with three other mothers who also had kids on the spectrum, she began to plan and raise money from foundations, corporate donors, and private individuals.

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3LPlace Life College Residence in Somerville. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

Working with experts at Tufts, Lesley, Harvard, and Boston universities, they created a transition curriculum, and the Life College was approved by the state Department of Developmental Services.

Karen Levine is a psychologist and member of the state’s Autism Commission that issued a report in 2013 calling for more services for the estimated 75,000 people in Massachusetts with autism. She says that 3LPlace is the only one of its kind in the commonwealth.

“It is much more individualized and really values the whole person, their unique interests and talents, prioritizing their social and emotional well-being, and it incorporates the arts,” says Levine, an instructor at Harvard Medical School.

Why the name 3LPlace? The program includes 3 L’s: Learning, which is the curriculum; Living, which is the Life College; and Linking, which is the group’s commitment to sharing what they’ve done with other cities across the country.

“We want to write the playbook on how to open something like this,” says Flaschen.

3LPlace opened in November and so far has two residents, including D.J., and others are being evaluated for placement. Members ages 22 to 32 can stay two to three years before transitioning to independent or at least semi-independent living.

The house can hold 10 young men and women, each with their own room. Two more rooms are set aside for overnight supervisors.

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L-R Deborah Flaschen (cq) her autistic son DJ Flaschen (cq) 24, and his art therapist Meghan Montgomery (cq) talk together in his room at 3LPlace Life College Residence in Somerville. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

In 2009, the Flaschens bought the two-family house near Davis Square and gutted it. They chose the location for its access to public transportation, stores, and jobs. The result is a cheery but uncluttered place that offers a 3-to-1 student-staff ratio with a clinical director, social worker, various therapists, and teachers.

D.J.’s sunny room has a bunk bed and near the bathroom sink is a poster of a man with shaving cream on his face and the question: “D.J., is it time to shave?” There are step-by-step illustrated instructions for washing one’s hands, brushing and flossing teeth, and what to do after showering (“comb hair, put deodorant on”).

A daily schedule is posted for each resident, and they include various therapies, chores, and classes. D.J., for instance, is artistic and works closely with Meghan Montgomery, an expressive arts therapist.

The other tenant is Tamar Lewis’s son, who is also on the autism spectrum (she doesn’t want his name used). He was living at the Cardinal Cushing Center in Hanover but recently aged out. He is passionate about music, and 3LPlace is catering to that. The staff contacted the Somerville music club Johnny D’s, where her son will soon start to volunteer.

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Labeled kitchen drawers at 3LPlace Life College Residence in Somerville. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

None of this comes cheap. Residential programs range from about $80,000 to $225,000, Mallon says. Tuition at 3LPlace is $132,500 a year. Those at 3LPlace will receive a mix of funding from private and public sources, depending on their eligibility. Flaschen is working on raising money for scholarships. For Lewis’s son, labeled a top priority by DDS because he has long been a residential client who cannot live at home, the state is paying most of his cost.

What will be next for D.J., when he’s finished at Life College? His mother sees him in an apartment in the neighborhood with three bedrooms: one for him, one for a friend, and one for a supervisor, in a kind of family setting instead of an institution. Maybe, she muses, he’ll work in an art studio.

But more important, Flaschen stresses, is what D.J. himself envisions, with Life College helping him figure out how to get there. “Rather than look at our young adults as people limited by their challenges, we look at them as people with untapped potential, and ask what we can do to support them,” she says.

Bella English can be reached at english@globe.com

All photos – ARAM BOGHOSIAN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

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3lPlace
http://3lplace.org/index.html
Email: info@3LPlace.org
Phone: 617-764-3280

U.S. Mail:
50 Whitman Street
Somerville, MA 02144-1975

======

Globe Letter to the Editor – Feb. 9, 2015

Disabled need support as they work to find, and keep, a job

I AM writing in response to the article “A next step” (SaturdayLife, Jan. 31), about the challenges faced by young adults aging out of school-provided services. As an employment attorney and director of a legal aid clinic for Massachusetts workers, I often hear from people with developmental disabilities or their families about their difficulties finding and keeping a job.

Legal requirements for employers differ markedly from those of schools. So, unsurprisingly, young adults with disabilities who are moving into the labor force do not understand which legal protections they have and do not have at work. The result of these misunderstandings is often job loss.

There is often confusion, for example, about if, how, or when to ask for an accommodation. And such a dialogue with an employer requires a type of self-advocacy that can be especially daunting for many with developmental disabilities.

Sometimes it takes only a little bit of guidance and accurate information to keep someone employed; other situations are more complicated. Either way, I foresee a growing need to provide such assistance to children diagnosed with disabilities as they transition to independent living.

Lisa J. Bernt
Director
Fair Employment Project
Jamaica Plain
http://www.fairemploymentproject.org/

04/14/14

Massport: Helping autistic kids earn their wings – Boston Globe – Opt. Ed – 4/14/14

Children with autism are frequently overwhelmed by new surroundings — loud noises, large crowds, and being touched by strangers can all cause panic. This can make traveling through airports a huge challenge.

Massport is trying to help. The agency this month ran its seventh “Wings for Autism” (See Below) event at Logan Airport, bringing together volunteers from three airlines, the Transportation Security Administration, and other vendors to offer about 160 kids with autism and their families the chance at a trial run going through airport security and boarding a flight. The daylong seminar is free and runs twice a year, in November and April. At other times, families with upcoming trips can schedule practice runs with Logan customer service staff or through the agency’s partner, the advocacy group Charles River Center http://charlesrivercenter.org/.

The Massport program has quickly become a national model: Six other airports have already  followed suit, and as many as 13 others are considering similar efforts. Massport launched the initiative after hearing of the experience of Susie Littlejohn and her son, Henry, who is autistic. In 2010, the Littlejohns were forced to call off a trip to Disney World after a glass elevator at Logan caused Henry to melt down. At this spring’s event, Henry, now 9, walked right on the plane and sat down. Says Susie Littlejohn, “The chance to practice has made all the difference.”

 

Wings for Autism

 The Wings for Autism program is designed specifically for families with autistic children to help ease the stress of flying.

To launch this unique program Massport teamed up with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), JetBlue and the Charles River Center (an autism support center).
A Different Kind of Dress Rehearsal With this unique concept in mind, Massport hosted a “dress rehearsal” open house day to give these families the opportunity to experience travel through Boston Logan before their actual trip.

Since 2011, Boston Logan held four Wings for Autism events and more than 1000 people attended. Families were able to familiarize themselves with the airport and travel procedures and kids had a chance to practice entering the airport, getting boarding passes at the ticket counter, checking bags, being screened at the TSA security checkpoint, and boarding the aircraft.

Increasing Awareness Not only is this a benefit to the families who participate, but it also provides a valuable training opportunity for airport, airline and TSA personnel to learn how to accommodate children with special needs and increase awareness within the airport community so that children with autism – and their families – can have a positive travel experience.
For additional information please e-mail wingsforautism@massport.com.
How To Get Involved If your family is interested in participating in the next Wings for Autism event at Boston Logan, please contact the Charles River Center.*
*Note: You do not have to be affiliated with the Charles River Center to participate and there is no cost for this program.

03/29/14

Autism Numbers Increasing & MA Autism Insurance Changes

Globe article and link after insurance info.

Autism Insurance For Your Child
You must apply by March 31, 2014 now,
More options to be announced for fall enrollments

By signing up, your child would be enrolled in a private insurance plan that is
required to provide these services for people with autism. You would have to pay a
monthly premium, but MassHealth would reimburse you for all or part of the
premium each month, depending on the plan you choose. Your child would not lose
his or her MassHealth or CommonHealth coverage.

The online application process is detailed and can be complicated. The Connector
has people available to help you apply. They are known as “Navigators” or Certified
Application Counselors (CACs). There is no charge for their assistance. To get
help, call one of the following numbers:
The Massachusetts Connector: (877) MA-ENROLL
The Boston Public Health Commission:
Beth Baker at (617)534-2294; bbaker@bphc.org

The Autism Insurance Resource Center: See phone number below. If you are
receiving this by email, click on this link to read further about this opportunity for
your child.
http://www.disabilityinfo.org/ARICA/pdfs/February-2014-Outreach.pdf

For more information, assistance or general information about the Autism Insurance Law
Contact the Autism Insurance Resource Center by:
Phone(774) 455-4056 or (800) 642-0249
Emailinfo@disabilityinfo.org
Websitewww.disabilityinfo.org/arica

====================
Number of children diagnosed with autism soars
CDC data show 30 percent jump over two years
By Deborah Kotz  | BOSTON GLOBE STAFF   MARCH 28, 2014

Autism rates in children have continued their steady rise, surging 30 percent in two years, according to the latest data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While 1 in 88 children were estimated to have autism in 2008, public health officials now estimate that 1 in 68 children are on the autism spectrum.

Those statistics are based on the 2010 medical records of 8-year-olds living in 11 communities throughout the United States that are part of the CDC’s autism surveillance network. When the CDC started its surveillance of these communities back in 2000, the incidence of autism was 1 in 150 children.

CDC officials couldn’t offer specific reasons for the rise beyond increased awareness of the condition among doctors, teachers, and parents. “It may be that we’re getting better at identifying autism,” said Coleen Boyle, director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, during a press briefing. “We do feel like some of this has to do with how children are identified, diagnosed, and served in their communities.”

Autism advocacy groups noted that the increasing prevalence underscores the need for research funding to identify the causes of autism. “To be perfectly frank, it’s an incomplete picture right now,” said Robert Ring, chief science officer at Autism Speaks, a research advocacy organization in New York City. “All the pieces of the puzzle aren’t in place.”

Certain trends have remained constant during the decade that the CDC has been collecting data. Autism remains five times more common in boys — affecting 1 in 42 compared with 1 in 189 girls — and white children are more likely to be diagnosed than black or Hispanic children, though the prevalence in those minority groups has risen at a faster rate than for whites.

About half of children with autism in 2010 had average or above-average intelligence, compared with a third in 2002.

“We now recognize that autism is a spectrum,” said Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, chief of the CDC’s developmental disabilities branch. “Our understanding has evolved to the point that we understand that there are children with higher IQs who may not have been receiving services in the past.”

The CDC provided grants to 11 states across the country — including Arizona, Arkansas, Maryland, and Wisconsin — based on their ability to survey medical and school records for pediatric autism diagnoses. Massachusetts is not one of the sites providing data to the federal government.

Autism rates varied widely among the 11 areas under CDC surveillance. In Alabama, only 1 in 175 children had autism in 2010 compared with 1 in 45 children in New Jersey.

That difference could reflect varying access to expensive autism assessments and therapies among states. New Jersey mandated in 2010 that insurance companies must cover $36,000 per year in behavioral programs and other autism therapies for any person under age 21 who is diagnosed with the disorder. Alabama didn’t pass a coverage mandate until 2012. A Massachusetts coverage law took effect in 2011, and more than 30 other states instituted such laws as well.

Some children with behavioral or intellectual disabilities other than autism may receive the diagnosis from their doctors in order to qualify them for coverage for treatments that could benefit them too, said Dr. Sarah Spence, codirector of Boston Children Hospital’s Autism Spectrum Center. “Kids may get labeled with autism disorder because that’s the best way for them to get services, but I don’t think this overdiagnosis is a huge piece of the rising incidence.”

More likely, doctors have become more attuned to early signs of autism in toddlers and preschoolers, such as failure to make eye contact, smile, or express emotional attachments to their caregivers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that health care providers conduct autism screening tests at every well-child visit.

“Doctors are getting better at doing these screenings,” Spence said, “to the point where every once in a while, I can happily tell parents that their child’s language delay isn’t autism.”

Despite this increased awareness, the average age at which a child is diagnosed hasn’t budged much; most children aren’t diagnosed until after 4 years of age, according to the CDC, two years after signs of the disorder usually start to appear.

“Research suggests that the earlier we intervene with treatment, the greater the probability that children will realize their full potential,” Ring said.

In an effort to get children diagnosed earlier, the US Department of Health and Human Services revealed an educational campaign on Thursday to make parents, teachers, and health care providers even more aware of early autism signs. Parents are advised to look for certain expected milestones in their child’s development, such as developing a fear of strangers, responding to other people’s emotions, and looking in the mirror by age 6 to 9 months.

One problem, however, that still remains unaddressed is the lack of behavioral specialists to assess and treat the growing population of children displaying signs of autism.

“The wait lists in Boston for assessment and treatment are too long,” Spence said, “and that’s unacceptable because every month counts when it comes to starting therapy.”
==================
http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

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02/9/14

Easter Seals Workshops Winter/Spring 2014

Register today and join AT professionals as they teach participants the benefits and uses of the latest assistive technology tools.

Registration Information for Easter Seals AT Workshops

Easter Seals Workshops Winter / Spring 2014

Asperger’s Independence Apps
February 19, 2014 5:30-7:30pm
Easter Seals Boston Office
Fee: $80

This presentation will focus on an array of Apps that are available to assist individuals with Asperger’s to better function in their work and social lives. Subjects include organization and time management (transitions), communication and social supports. It is designed for parents, educators, and employers, and for individuals with Asperger’s themselves. Learning objectives

·         Identify 2 categories of potentially useful Apps for individuals with Asperger’s.
·         List at least 2 Apps from each category List 3 features of the Sōsh App.

Presenter: Katrina Caracol-Parker, BS.
Getting off the Ground with Proloquo2Go
Tuesday February 25, 2014  9:30am to 12:30pm
Easter Seals Boston Office
Fee: $80

This three hour hands-on workshop is designed to help you get up and running with Proloquo2Go, the popular augmentative communication app. We will cover basic skills such as choosing vocabulary options, adapting settings, creation and customization of pages, linking pages and backing up and restoring your customized vocabulary. An overview of the scanning features will be included. We will also discuss strategies for success to help your user get the most out of their AAC system.

Some basic knowledge of the iPad is helpful. Please be sure your device has the most recent operating system, and that you have the most recent version of Proloquo2Go. Learning objectives

  •          Participants will understand and use at least three different editing features of Proloquo2Go
  •          Participants will list three different ways to personalize communication displays with
    Proloquo2Go
  •          Participants will list three different methods for backing up and sharing Proloquo2Go files

Presenter: Kristi Peak-Oliveira, MS, CCC, Speech Language Pathologist/AAC Specialist.
Accessibility and Apple i-Devices
March 11, 2014  5:30- 8:30 PM
Easter Seals Boston Office
Fee: $80

This hands-on workshop will focus on meeting the needs of diverse users by accessing the built-in accessibility options in iOS devices such as the iPad, iPad mini, iPod Touch, and iPhone.  Features will include text to speech reading of on-screen content, strategies for using voice-activated features, customizing the user experience with planning placement of resources, and utilizing the new switch access features of iOS 7.  This workshop will also consider use of additional tools and strategies, such as cases, mounting, and styluses, to improve accessibility for users.  This workshop will not be able to cover specific app recommendations, but resources for app review organizations will be shared.  Bring your own i-device for a hands-on experience.

Learning objectives

  • identify accessibility limitations of the default configuration for  iOS devices for individuals with diverse abilities
  • describe features and potential applications of built in accessibility options for iOS devices such as voiceover, speak selection, voice command, guided access, assistive touch, and switch access
  • understand potential tools and strategies that can be utilized to enhance access for users with diverse abilities

Presenter: Kevin Berner, MS OTR/L, ATP
AAC Language & Conversations: Make It Fun And Interactive!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 April April 26, 2014    9:00am – 3:00pm
Merrimack College
Fee:  early bird (before February 21) $165 or $189 after February 21

How often do you observe AAC users who perform beautifully in therapy, only to sit passively in classrooms and social situations?  This quick-paced, interactive session will support students in using core vocabulary for authentic purposes, with peers, and using repetition with variation.  Strategies include:  RPM-GO (rehearse, practice, model – GO), combining core vocabulary and literacy, and scaffolding communication with engaging apps. Social Scripts ensure that augmented communicators – even those with limited access skills – can achieve interactions that are frequent, motivating, self-initiated, varied, ongoing, with multiple turns, and with a range of partners, including peers. Strategies will be provided for creating, programming, and teaching the use of social scripts to support accessing skills as well as conversation.  Participants will engage in multiple ‘try-it’ activities to help learning generalize, just as we hope to make core vocabulary generalize for people who use AAC!  Participants will receive a CD with sample activities and forms.

Learning Outcomes:

1)      Summarize the RPM-GO approach (Rehearse, Practice, Model – GO)

2)     Review the components of a social script and work as a team to create a social script for a student who is a beginning communicator

3)     Describe apps and ways to use apps interactively to support target strategies (combining language and literacy, interactive communication games)

Presented by Dr. Caroline Musselwhite
ASHA CEUs are available at no additional charge for the April 26 workshop only

08/30/13

Boston Community Days Oct 5, Oct 19, & Nov 2 2013

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Save the Date         

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2013
Engine 3
618 HARRISON AVE
10:00AM-12:00PM

Please RSVP by 9/27 to Betsy at 781-762-4001 Ext. 304
eroche@arcsouthnorfolk.org

We are pleased to announce a Community Day in BACK BAY/SOUTH BOSTON at the Fire House located at 618 Harrison Ave on Saturday, October 5, 2013 from 10:00AM-12:00PM.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2013
Engine 5
360 SARATOGA ST.
10:00AM-12:00PM

Please RSVP by 10/11 to Betsy at 781-762-4001 Ext. 304
eroche@arcsouthnorfolk.org

We are pleased to announce a Community Day in EAST BOSTON at the Fire House located at 360 Saratoga St. on Saturday, October 19, 2013 from 10:00AM-12:00PM.

SATURDAY, NOV. 2, 2013
Engine 2
700 EAST FOURTH ST.
10:00AM-12:00PM

Please RSVP by 10/25 to Betsy at 781-762-4001 Ext. 304
eroche@arcsouthnorfolk.org

We are pleased to announce a Community Day in SOUTH BOSTON at the Fire House located at 700 East Fourth St. on Saturday, November 2, 2013 from 10:00AM-12:00PM.

 This Community Day is an Open House for individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other related developmental disabilities and their families/caregivers.

Please join us as your local First Responders will be on hand to answer questions on how to best prepare for emergency situations involving your loved one diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other related developmental disabilities.

This event is being sponsored by
The Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism, Inc.

This event is a collaborative effort between:
the ALEC Program of The Arc of South Norfolk
Boston City Council
Boston Police Department
Boston Fire Department,
Boston EMS
Till, Inc.

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07/23/13

Firm raises $15.4m for autism test – Boston Globe 7/23/2013

SynapDx Corp., a Lexington company that is developing a diagnostic test to detect autism spectrum disorder earlier than tests now currently used, said Monday that it has secured a $15.4 million funding round, led by Google Ventures.

Foundation Medical Partners joined the financing as a new investor, alongside founding investors North Bridge Venture Partners and General Catalyst Partners, SynapDx said in a news release.

According to the release, SynapDx is currently developing a breakthrough blood-based autism spectrum disorder diagnostic test, designed to help clinicians identify children with autism earlier than they do today.

SynapDx added that Google’s Andrew Conrad has been appointed to its board of directors.

In a statement, Conrad said:

“The best diagnostic tests of our era will be developed at the nexus of advanced genomics and cutting edge informatics. SynapDx stands to revolutionize the autism field while building the pediatric genomics company.”

Chris Reidy can be reached at reidy@globe.com.

06/10/13

Helping those with autism find technology jobs, One father’s #BigIdea

Great Piece from NBC Nightly News from June 10, 2013

At the nonPareil Institute, an autism diagnosis isn’t an impediment to developing a meaningful career. The nonprofit provides technical training, teaching software skills to students with autism and then hiring those students to design games, apps and eBooks. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.

Dan Selec, whose son was diagnosed with autism, had a big idea: to train and then hire autistic students to work with technology. In 2008 he founded his nonprofit, the nonPareil Institute, which teaches software skills to those with autism and then hires many of them. Now, these workers are increasingly finding themselves in demand for the skills they’ve learned.

Click here to learn more about Selec’s nonprofit.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy