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Coding and autism: Learning the skills I need to start a tech career

This guest blog post is by Peter M. Souza Jr. He is 34-years old, from California. At age 33, he was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. He is in his 8th week of Coding Autism.

For me, this opportunity means I am no longer working alone. For years I studied code on my own, learning a hand-full of languages, with no cohesive direction other than accomplishing small coded tasks, always wondering what the industry needs me to learn in order for me to obtain a position of employment. Being eternally frustrated and driven to increase my value and the quality of my work, I studied with every free hour I had, running myself in circles of fatigue. With Coding Autism, I can now see the whole picture, the picture i've been trying to see, the mystery of the industry, the information that isn't available online through code tutorials, the true and honest inner workings of the industry. This course has just begun for me but immediately I had a deep sense of home and hope and optimism, knowing that finally I have a place to put all my energy and a great of group of people who can direct me and be patient with me while I learn the skills I need in order to help myself in the future. I feel relieved knowing that I have help moving into a more self sufficient state of being.

Coding Autism will help my career development in so many ways, it's helping me learn everything about the industry that I didn't know, and didn't know how to research. I'm learning how to organize and present detailed project roadmaps that I can present to employers or employees. This course is also giving me exposure with people of different skill levels, it's teaching me how to teach, and teaching me how to learn. Being exposed to what happens at a company from top to bottom, all the steps in a project, this is exactly the kind of exposure and introduction I needed. "Hi tech industry, I've heard a lot about you. my name is Peter, nice to meet you."

The importance of this course is immediately recognized by just hearing its name, and if that isn't enough to convince you then take a look into their curriculum and their additional student services. I have tried to get into coding courses previously, even invited back for second try-outs. One course in particular had a great program and I was able to keep up with one student who had a computer science degree, even though his typing (wpm) was a little faster than mine. I was ultimately permanently rejected, no opportunity to ever join or try-out, ever. Growing up mostly alone and having only a few close friends, I didn't recognize that I was on the autism spectrum until I was 33 years old. I see the world in a different way, sometimes its a more simple and direct way, and sometimes its in loops of complication, Coding Autism has people available to me who know this, and know how to help me build a bridge from one mind to another, and from a problem to a solution. Coding Autism has the industry partnerships that I would never be able to discover on my own, or would take me many more years of struggling to find. 

I found out about Coding Autism from talking to Oliver Thornton, the Founder and CEO of Coding Autism. I was working at a gym at the time, and he was a member, I used to see him regularly and sometimes I would be working on code practice and talk to him about it, he mentioned Coding Autism one day (before I knew i was on the spectrum) and I was so interested in it because I love helping people and working for a good cause. I occasionally asked him if there were updates on the progress of the program and chit chat, it was really nice to see someones dream coming to life... and now to be a part of it!

NXT GEN Coders Program powered by GameStop

GameStop gives logoIn an effort to encourage the development of programs that teach digital skills to people across the autism spectrum, Autism Speaks and GameStop have teamed up to create the NXT GEN Coders Program. Powered by GameStop and administered by Autism Speaks, the grant will support programs to teach people with autism of all ages critical coding and computer programming skills. Applicants must be established organizations that offer coding and/or computer programming. Grant funding may go towards scholarship assistance for program participation to those in financial need and/or program enhancements to meet the needs of the participants with autism. Grants are up to $25,000.

Requirements to apply are the following:

  1. You must be an established organization, with staff, infrastructure and a physical location that offers coding and/or computer programming.
  2. You must have trained staff leading the program, or have a specific plan to acquire and/or train additional staff to work with participants with autism.
  3. You must have a plan in place for sustainability of your program as well as follow up with graduates of your program.

Status: Open until August 31! APPLY HERE!

Note: Recipients will be announced in November.

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.