Hooping Up Dallas Cowboys Stadium For Autism

Kyle and Geri

Kyle and Geri

Geri McNeice is an avid hooper and hooping instructor at aRoundJoy® in Arlington, Texas. She’s also a mother of two and her son Kyle was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Today Kyle is 24-years-old. He is a successful, happy and fulfilled young adult thanks to the nonPareil Institute. They teach technical training skills like video game programming to autistic individuals. It’s the only program of it’s kind in the country and three-years-ago Kyle became their first student. A few weeks ago he was hired by them as a full-time staff member and to show her appreciation for all that the nonPariel Institute has been able to do for Kyle and others like him, Geri is spinning up what could very well be the world’s largest hooping class ever on April 5th at Cowboys Stadium, home of The Dallas Cowboys.

Geri told Hooping.org, “If you asked me twenty years ago if I thought Kyle would be living on his own as an adult, my answer would have been ‘No’. Back then things were very different and the future was so scary! Kyle was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism on his 3rd birthday. Not exactly the ideal present we had hoped for. We went ahead and continued our plans for the evening and had a small party for a few close friends and family. Despite Kyle’s reactions, or lack of reactions, with each experience we just kept on doing things as we would, without excuses. It’s how we lived with autism, never letting it hold us back, never letting it get in the way. That’s not to say the road was always easy. There were several times I thought we just would never make it.”

How did his autism present itself? Geri explained, “He had many sensory issues related to clothing and food textures, sensitivity to noise. He enjoyed rocking back and forth on the floor. He couldn’t put two words together at the age of three, yet he could read sentences and repeat back TV commercials verbatim. He lined up Hot Wheels cars all over the house, but had no idea how to roll them on the tracks even after we showed him. When we traveled in our car, he screamed if we turned right instead of left, or left instead of right, depending on the intersection. I think you get the idea. His outbursts due to frustration were numerous and each day certainly had its challenges.”

In the summer of 2009 Kyle attended a Future Horizons autism conference and it was there that they learned that a new non-profit organization was forming. We could not believe what we were hearing; nonPareil Institute was to become a non-profit video game development company, a technology training program for adults with autism, where they would train, work and eventually live on a campus. They needed to find a few initial students they could attempt to train, to see if this vision was viable. Today we couldn’t be more proud of the company and our son!” How is Kyle doing? Geri told Hooping.org, “He’s living and working on his own with very minimal assistance, pretty much independently. He loves what he’s doing and is passionate about his work, his studies, his hobbies and his friends. Amazingly, all of these things are blended beautifully in his life today.”

Geri McNiece

Geri McNiece: Photo by Jill Johnson

While Kyle was finding his way at the nonpariel Institute, Geri was finding herself inside a hoop and began turning a passion and hobby into her livelihood. Today she teaches hoop fitness to adults at The HoopShack, her warehouse studio, located in Arlington, Texas. “As I began to teach and share more about hooping with others, I discovered it was helping not only myself, but so many others, on multiple levels. There was so much more about this circular movement than one could see. The hoop can be so calming and relaxing, it reduces stress, plus generates joy and laughter. It is definitely repetitious, and the spinning is a great way to get a child to engage with you. As someone with first hand experience dealing with autism it became clear that parents, teachers, therapists and even autistic individuals themselves could benefit from hooping too. As I sat in the front row at the autism conference that day, on the very same day we learned about nonPareil Institute, all these thoughts began to swirl in my head about how the hoop could help the autism community! I began to imagine putting together an event where I could share this information with everyone. Who would’ve imagined all the pieces would fall into place and we would be doing it a place as big as Cowboys Stadium!”

What do people need to know to attend? “You need not know anything about hooping or even own a hoop, although if you are bringing a younger child, a toy hoop for them would be beneficial, as most of the hoops we have for sharing will be adult sized. Everyone will learn how to use a hoop both on- and off-your-body. We’ll learn some tips and tricks to help yourself and your kids, students & clients too. You can meet the staff and some of the students from NonPareil Institute. We want to see everyone smile and laugh, helping ourselves while helping others. I really hope you can make it! If you do come, please stop by and say hello!”

SPiN the STADiUM: a Night of Hooping & Helping for Autism is happening on Thursday, April 5th, at Cowboys Stadium, One Legends Way, in Arlington, Texas. The Texas-size hoop class and hoop jam is being held from 6 until 10pm inside the stadium and on the field. The portion of the $35 entrance ticket will benefit the nonpariel Institute.

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8 comments for “Hooping Up Dallas Cowboys Stadium For Autism

  1. March 26, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    You have been blessed. Thank you for sharing this and passing the love on.

    • March 26, 2012 at 7:31 pm

      Thanks…it’s been an amazing journey!

  2. March 26, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    thanks SO much for featuring my story, Philo…stay tuned for an UPDATE about this event…I definitely made lots of lemonade out of lemons today….EVErYONE stay tuned!!
    =D

    • March 26, 2012 at 9:26 pm

      This is so amazing! A few years ago I began attending my community Autism Society’s group meetings. For no particular reason than to learn something. I never wanted to have to go to a group only when I needed them (If I ever did)…It had been maybe two years before I had hooped & that group has never left my mind as far as the hoop is concerned. Ive contacted them once about taking my hoops to see how the children react to them & theyd like me to come talk to them about it…I honestly have no idea what to say besides, “Its just been on my heart”…Would it be possible for you to give me any advice or information that might explain a little more to them about the benefits? Ive never even personally known anyone with autism & have honestly wondered why God put that group in my path…Maybe this is why? :)

      • March 26, 2012 at 10:42 pm

        of course this is why!

        it’s really as simple as what I said up in the article…it’s all about getting to engage with the child…playing, interacting…there’s a wonderful article here from earlier this year…type “autism” up in the search box…give me a sec & I will search & post the link…it actually deals more with autism & hooping in a more therapeutic way…you might find the link in that article helpful…really, the hoop is great for the adults, too…that’s a big part of my focus…giving the parents, teachers, family members, therapists another tool not only to help relate to the autistic individual, but also something to help them relax & get some respite!
        I do know that autistic adults esp. need physical exercise as a natural way to relieve stress…plus, just to stay healthy…many are very inactive, so this is a nice individual activity, and they are “in their own space” or personal zone….the pushing on the body, repetitive, is soothing…again, if they have the physical ability & want to try to learn it…I never force them…some like to simply sit inside it on the floor, but they like that, too!

      • March 26, 2012 at 10:45 pm

        http://www.hooping.org/2012/01/autism-the-power-of-a-hula-hoop/

        You will find this helpful…good luck…go follow your heart!

  3. March 28, 2012 at 6:12 am

    Oh Geri, you give me such hope! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for everything you do. Seeing this makes me want to cry, shout with joy, just because theres someone else out there that understands. Things are very scary at the moment for us, and you know that the hoop gives me so much respite, and a happy mom makes happier kids. Just reading how well your son is doing now, seeing the words “He’s living and working on his own with very minimal assistance, pretty much independently. He loves what he’s doing and is passionate about his work, his studies, his hobbies and his friends. Amazingly, all of these things are blended beautifully in his life today.” give me such hope and joy for the future, not just my kids but for all kids on the spectrum. Love and hugs to you and yours, Geri. You are a hero. <3

    • March 29, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      wow, Maryellen! thanks for your kind words! it really is amazing to sit back and look at the way things have turned out…never in a million years would I have thought of Kyle’s life like this…well, or my life either…life is such an incredible journey & you can’t go thru it with blinders on….opportunities are all aRound, and you just have to be open to accepting things as they are, moving forward, trying new things, taking a few chances & always doing what feels right…not what others may think is the right thing…you keep that chin up & know that these days pass WAY too fast, even tho it may not seem like it! trust me…blink of an eye…enjoy the small moments & celebrate the small things…everyday needs full attention…because, it is the little things that make all the difference…if you aren’t fully present, you might miss something…the hoop helps with that so much! I only wish I would have had it while rasising my sons!!! I think what helped is we kinda lived with that “Ferris Bueller” attitude anyway!!
      hugs & stay tuned to my Facebook pages, website…new articles are coming out about my son, nonPareil & the upcoming event…take care…and thanks for your wonderful words…

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