‘Coding Club’ Harnesses Unique Talents of Youth with Autism
Extraordinary attention to detail, a very literal mind and the ability to look at things differently are just some of the unique talents held by young people with autism that are being harnessed to create pathways to valued, long-term employment.
In 2016 the CVC Autism Specialist Program (ASP), partnered with Curtin University and the Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance (AASQA) to help young people on the Autism spectrum find employment in the area of software testing.
Now into its third year, AASQA Founder and Director Professor Tele Tan said the ‘Coding Club’ program, allows participants to use their natural talents in a practical and complimentary way. “Software testing is something that is quite often overlooked by corporates however these skills are extremely important in the information communication technology industry” Tele said.
Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist Kahlia Wingfield works with the students and assists in finding them employment in the area of software testing. “Generally if a youth with autism has a particular interest or niche skills in the area of coding, the tasks are often completed with a high level of accuracy” Kahlia said.
This was certainly the case for Year 12 CVC student Chris Van Der Walt, who recently completed work placement at a software company as part of the program. “The feedback from his employer was that he often picked up errors in the codes that the employer missed himself.”
In addition to helping program participants prepare for work placements, Kahlia educates employers about autism to ensure all parties have clear expectations and knowledge of what can be achieved through work experience. “During the work placement it’s my role to keep the lines of communication open between all parties – the participant, their family and support network and the employer - to ensure the experience is as successful as it can be.”
Chris’s Mum Cindy said that attending the Academy has not only improved her son’s job opportunities, it had also improved his overall wellbeing and outlook on life. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to him. Everyone comments on him smiling. They never saw him smile and now he’s smiling and laughing and all you hear about is coding club!”
Cindy said Chris was looking forward to pursuing his education even further following coding club. “He has everything planned already; he wants to go to TAFE to do his Cert IV and then he wants to go to Curtin to go on with this program, and then we’ll see from there!”