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.”
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.