Young people with autism are far more likely to be unemployed and feel isolated. In fact, less than a third of autistic adults have any kind of paid work, according to a survey by the National Autistic Society.
But one Los Angeles-based startup is hoping to change that — Coding Autism is developing a school that will teach autistic people how to code, web development skills and software engineering skills. These skills will become tools their students can use to land a job in technology.
“We are creating a formula for success for autistic individuals for them to thrive in their professions and their lives,” Oliver Thornton, CEO and cofounder of Coding Autism, said in a video promoting the project.
People in the program will attend a 15-week intensive learning bootcamp, which will also include resume workshops, career counseling, interview preparation and access to professional mentors.
Once participants complete the program, Coding Autism helps with job placement in the tech industry and showcases their portfolios on their website so potential employers can see their work.
Nearly one in 68 adults in the United States fall somewhere on the autism spectrum. Yet with such a high prevalence of autism, there is still a lot of misunderstanding and stigma tied to the disorder that prevent many from finding employment. Although people with autism struggle with social interactions and communication, many are quite bright and excel in math, science, music and art.
There are nearly 500,000 programming and engineering jobs opening up each year, yet only one percent of those jobs are filled by someone who has autism. This is an incredible opportunity for people with autism who could make great coders and engineers due to their intrinsic attention to details and fascination with repetitive tasks, according to Coding Autism.
“I think a lot of autistic people like to do coding because it keeps your mind going,” one program participant said in the video. “It gives you something to do that’s new and fun and exciting.”
Currently, Coding Autism is crowdfunding in order to totally cover the tuition of the first class of participants, who are expected to start some time in the late summer or early fall.
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However, their program isn’t just about teaching people with autism coding and web development — Thornton hopes this will help educate tech companies about autistic people and the unique perspective and talent they can bring.
“By training adults with autism through our autism specialized coding immersive program, we are opening doors for companies to diversify their workforces, broaden the culture of their company and teams, and drive innovation within their operations,” Thornton said.
As the program grows, Coding Autism hopes to be able to provide classes online in order to help autistic people throughout the U.S.
Danielle Tarasiuk is a multimedia journalist based in Los Angeles. Her work has been published on AllDay.com, Yahoo! Sports, KCET, and NPR-affiliate stations KPCC and KCRW. She’s a proud Sarah Lawrence College and USC Annenberg alumn.