Nightly News   |  June 10, 2013

Harnessing the skills of people with autism

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.

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>>> and certainly a big idea . hire people with autism for the kinds of jobs that might fit them well and now these workers are increasingly finding themselves in demand, as we hear from stephanie gosk, it is paying off for everyone.

>> reporter: for many, the high-tech world of computer game design is a mystery. for michelle o'brien, it's second nature. she created this digital abacus for the ipad.

>> pretty cool, cheryl.

>> reporter: a computer programmer , like everyone at this institute, has a form of autism. holding down a regular job has been a struggle.

>> delivering papers and a crossing guard .

>> reporter: at nonpareil, she is a full-time paid employee. they teach software skills and hire many of the students to design games, apps and e-books for sale.

>> did you make that?

>> dan came up with the idea, inspired by his son who has autism.

>> we are desperate for answers for our kids.

>> reporter: he started nonpareil four years ago with a handful of students. now they have 125.

>> we're very successful in technology. it speaks to all of their strengths, the quieter environment, the sound isolation. the products that they build, they can provide a living for themselves.

>> reporter: in other words, a future.

>> technology can be very predictable. people gravitate toward those kinds of areas and we're starting to see many companies involved in technology really happen to this pool of workers.

>> reporter: the software firm s.a.p. announced a goal of hiring as many as 650 employees with autism. three years ago, alliant data hired bernie fish with autism.

>> why wouldn't anybody do this? employees show up on time, do a remarkable job.

>> recognized skills and high demand give people with autism new hope for a better life . stephanie gosk, nbc news, plano, texas.