Coding involves learning how to solve problems, work in groups and think creatively. Kids with autism, however, struggle with these basic skills such as social interactions, relations and non-verbal interactions.
Autism, which comes under the autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions that is characterized by deficits in social interaction skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication. Autism spectrum disorder consists of three disorders; Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism.
These subtypes are mostly influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. People with autism have a distinct set of strengths and challenges. Their skills such as learning, thinking and problem-solving develop in different ranges from highly skilled to severely challenged. The level of support that they require differ, from less to significant.
Teaching children with autism enables them to learn these skills, such as creating logical connections, breaking tasks into smaller parts and prioritizing them. One of the key tasks is to teach them thinking skills. Children with autism can find it difficult to organize their thoughts. Even a simple routine such as getting ready for school, having a shower, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and packing the bag requires a lot of mental mapping to plan and execute. Teaching autistic children enables them to acquire the thinking skills that they need to develop to address such challenges.
What is coding?
Coding is basically the communication process between humans and computers. It helps understand how different games, apps, websites are created and how they function. Learning to code is like learning a computer’s language, just like a child would learn any other language. Coding prepares children for the future, with the rapid increase in the dependency on technology.
How is coding beneficial for autistic (autism) children
There are a number of important reasons why it is beneficial to introduce autistic children to coding.
Around 10-20% adults with autism find employment for themselves. Learning coding allows them to be financially empowered and to master new skills. Coding allows kids to build on skills that involve mathematics, problem solving and reasoning, teamwork, and creativity amongst others. It allows them to think.
Coding is a part of everyday life, with technology being a huge part of people’s lives. Thus, autistic children can learn and understand the world around them better with the skills they develop while learning computer programming.
The attraction of autistic students to computer science
Autistic students prefer a style of planning and designing their input and output patterns when it comes to skills like problem solving, where they are able to organize data and build reliable structures and generate and predict results.
Coding also helps them in building their logical and spatial intelligence, which is scientifically proven to be stronger areas for autistic children.
Children with autistic spectrum disorders are proven to have a strong logical thinking style, which is necessary for coding. They have a more dominant left side of the brain and are naturally drawn to writing code. Thus, they have higher chances at employment opportunities for jobs that require precision and repetition, which are skills required for coding.
Important tips for coding
The apt environment is dependent on the learning capacity of the child. There are stark differences between engaging in classroom teaching and online classes.
Classroom settings provide many distractions, uncomfortable social interactions or other unpleasant stimuli. However, it gives them the opportunity to get their doubts cleared on spot and have a direct interaction with the teacher.
The online option, however, gives the child the ability to take the courses in the comfort of the home, which reduces interaction with unpleasant stimuli.
WhiteHat Jr thus becomes the best platform for autistic children to learn coding, as WhiteHat provides 1 on 1 live training for kids where they can learn at the comfort of the homes without any distraction. Also, there is a trainer live who is always there to clear any doubts on spot.
Make it interesting
For autistic children, it is preferred to stay away from strict academic courses and focus on interest, engaging activities that match the child’s interest. They can use programming apps, offline games, and other such projects to learn coding in an interactive manner.
Best programming languages for autistic kids
Best ways for autistic kids to learn
Osmo Coding uses Legos, gaming, and coding to teach children programming concepts. It uses magnetic blocks that allows the character created to solve puzzles and other challenges. This game is designed for the iPad. It is great way for young learners to get involved in coding.
Scratch (Free software)
Scratch is a relatively easy software to start learning with. This user friendly software also allows parents who are not too technologically advanced to follow some of the well planned out lessons created by Google. This enables them to take part in the fun and learn coding themselves.
Scratch uses a fun visual block system that teaches basic coding concepts while at the same time, allows the students to create creative and fun games. Google CS has also intricately designed and drafted out course plans that are easy for both the kids and their parents to understand and follow.
This planned out syllabus allows the children to learn and understand the different coding languages and concepts that were used to make many famous 2-Dimensional games such as Donkey Kong, etc. This software also allows for the users to use their creativity and add their art, animation, music, sound effects, and voice-over.
Code.org is a company that is involved in expanding the reach of computer science to different students and aims to increase the number of women and under-represented minorities that engage in learning coding. They aim to ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn coding, just like they would other subjects. Code.org is supported by many leading companies such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft amongst others.
Best ways for autistic kids to learn coding.
Codecademy is an online interactive website that allows the user to join free coding classes. These classes involve learning different programming languages such as Python, Java, Ruby, among others as well as mark-up languages like CSS and HTML. The website also provides the option of upgrading to ‘pro’, which allows the users to access personalised learning plans, projects, live session from professionals among other such features.
The exercises on the website have automatic feedback systems, where they receive an immediate accuracy check. Exercises are performed in browser and have automatic accuracy checking.
WhiteHat Jr (Free Trial)
WhiteHat Jr is a company that provides 1:1 coding classes over the internet for kids aged 6 to 14. The model is unique, where kids can interact with their trainers live on a video conference. White Hat Jr also offers Free trial for students.
CodaKid (Paid learning)
CodaKid’s easy access subscription allows people to learn coding online. The website allows the students with many hours to learn student projects, game developments, among other skills. A unique feature of the website is that it allows the student to learn with an online mentor, who also participates in live classes and discussion sessions.
Swift Playgrounds (Free application)
Swift Playgrounds is an app developed by Apple, which is free of cost. The app teaches Swift programming language. The student does not require any previous coding knowledge and is one of the best resources for a beginner. The games begin with an easy level and then progress with every level, intricately designed by the developers.