The impact of coding and game-building on children with autism

It’s Autism Awareness Month – prime time to shed light on the incredible and unique characteristics of those on the autistic spectrum

According to a study by the National Autistic Society, just 16% of adults with autism are in full-time work, even though 77% claim they want to be. Despite society’s efforts to accept the personality traits of those on the autistic spectrum, it goes without saying that there’s still a long way to go in communicating the exceptional and unique characteristics that adults – and children – with autism have.

With an aptitude for logical thinking and a preference for predictability, studies have proven that coding, programming and game-building provide great employment opportunities for adults and learning opportunities for children. In fact, children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) tend to not only compete with their peers but actually surpass them when it comes to digital aptitude because they are logical in their thinking, enjoy predictability and are visual learners.

Left brain dominance

Children with autism typically have a more dominant left side of the brain, meaning they are naturally drawn to computer science – specifically writing code. As a result, children with autism have a stronger chance of excelling in jobs that require precision and repetition – such as updating databases, coding and analytics.

In 2016, global leader in financial services, J.P. Morgan (JPM), initiated a specialist campaign to source employees and interns on the Autism spectrum. Anthony Pacilio, global head of the firm’s Autism at Work Program, had recognised in autistic prospects the key attributes it takes to handle coding and quality assurance testing roles. In fact, in roles with easily measurable outcomes, Pacilio stated that JPM found that people on the spectrum “considerably outperformed” neurotypical people.

This is just one example of how individuals with ASD not only enjoy the familiarity of digital technology but excel in the correct atmosphere, with the right tools. At Code Ninjas, we’re of the mindset that any child with autism can thrive during their weekly sessions – and learn transferable skills that will result in their increased employability when the time comes.

Nurturing collaboration

Perhaps most importantly, the programme encourages students to work as part of a team and collaborate in fun and relaxing surroundings – increasing their ability to communicate and handle group environments. This is a crucial consideration for us as we ensure our programme isn’t just suitable for children with autism, but a place for them to ultimately thrive in terms of their potential and overall wellbeing. In the majority of cases, people with ASD struggle with social interaction and may be hypersensitive to some stimuli – such as light and sound; therefore, staff in our locations make every viable adjustment to the existing surroundings of our coding dojos during sessions that children with autism attend. In some locations, our franchisees have even been able to facilitate specialist sessions for students with special educational needs to take away any unnecessary background noise.

‘Natural gift for recognising patterns’

Children with autism also respond well to sequence and predictability, finding solace in activities that yield predictable results. Therefore, it stands to reason that they should value the increased control over their interactions that is afforded by the filter of a computer screen or from the automated action of a coded command. Computer programming and game-building are some of the most predictable and logical actions a young student can take on and, because people with ASD often have a natural gift for recognising patterns and repetition, they regularly outperform their average peers.

Positive reinforcement

Another key characteristic of those with ASD is that they respond well to praise and affirmations. They want to know that the project they’ve completed has met the expectations of their peers, teacher or parent, which is why celebrating each victory is of such importance. Acknowledging a job well done is a great tool for increasing their sense of ability and confidence, which is bound to transfer successfully to adult life as they enter the world of work.

Although our programme is based on the fundamentals of learning through fun, an undeniable benefit of the curriculum is that students are gaining the much-needed digital skills required to compete in a technology-fuelled world. Since April 2020, vacancies in the digital sector have increased by a staggering 33%, so it stands to reason that, as the demand continues to increase, so will the need for skilled specialists to fill these roles. Children with autism have the ability to outshine their competitors in the field of coding because, simply, their unique characteristics fulfil the key components of coding – function, pattern and precision.

” Children with autism have the ability to outshine their competitors in the field of coding because, simply, their unique characteristics fulfil the key components of coding – function, pattern and precision”

But, most importantly, a major benefit of coding for children with autism is that, like with other fruitful forms of education, the skills learned when coding tend to go beyond their intended use. Coding education is deeply rooted in concepts that can be incredibly useful throughout a child’s life – for example, communication, creativity, resilience and, crucially, working well when as part of a team.

If your child has ASD and has shown an interest in exploring programming or coding, my advice to you would be let them give it a go. Find a local provider, tour the location, ask questions about their programme, and encourage your child to attend a trial session. It might be the best thing you ever did for their future.

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