Take learning to code and the world of autism education.
The connections might not be apparent at first, however, I have seen coding open new doors for students with autism in spectacular ways.
Coding is such a powerful tool for interpreting the world in a way that is highly relatable to a great many of the students with autism I work with.
Learning to code is all about learning how to solve problems, to work with others in creative ways and to learn how to think in a new language.
Teaching children with autism employs the exact same skills – creating logical connections, breaking tasks into smaller parts and sequencing them, but it is also much more than this.
When we work with children with autism, one of our key jobs is to teach thinking skills.
I’ll give you an example – children with autism can find it difficult to organise their thoughts.
Take a morning routine, such as getting ready for school.
This requires a lot of mental organisation – having a shower, getting dressed, eating breakfast, packing your school bag.
For a child who has difficulty thinking in this way, this sort of challenge can be nearly insurmountable.
Teaching our children to code is teaching them the thinking skills they need to address challenges such as this.
In autism education we often use visual schedules to help prompt children through their morning routine – but what if we taught children the logical foundations of how to think about and address these routines?
Through the language of coding, children can learn how to organise tasks like getting ready for school, to take the challenge of getting dressed, for example, and break it into its smaller parts – socks, shoes, shorts, shirt – and then arrange these into a solvable sequence of events.
We use an iPad app like Choiceworks to help with the visual organisation side of this task, and then follow it up with the app Swift Playgrounds to reinforce the coding skills that allow us to think in this way.
It is fascinating how code has already become a natural part of the metaphors our children use when they talk about how they think.
I have a nephew who says, “My thoughts are buffering, hold on I can nearly picture what I want to say,” and “My brain is having a glitch, let me think about that for a second”.
I want my students to be able to think for themselves in the most independent and creative ways possible.
I want them to see a problem and have the tools to think about it in ways that give them the solutions they need.
This is why I’m passionate about coding for life, and why I see autism education and coding as being such natural partners in sharing this language going forward.