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The Benefits of Teaching Coding to Children with Autism

by on 09/09/2021 1202

Coding is a career path that can work very well with autistic students. Computers are already great learning tools when used with non-specialized schools, and there’s no reason to believe it wouldn’t be a great learning tool for autistic students. More than anything, advancements in technology have made life for those with autism simpler and easier. Through these advancements, we can see the benefits of technology in full display. With programming languages (like  thesebeing made more accessible to kids, coding is a great avenue to explore for young minds.

Why Coding?

Coding provides something important for autistic children that they always look for: structure. Coding has very clear rules and syntax that a good number of children with autism can appreciate. Not to mention, coding allows them to have an avenue for their qualities to shine. Their natural talents are typically in line with the qualities that good coders have. If nothing else, coding will instill them with important values that can help them throughout their lives.

Here are a few of the benefits that autistic children can gain from coding:

Improves Logical Thinking

On average, children with autism have the left side of their brain dominant. For context, the left brain is what handles the logic part of the brain, i.e., science and mathematics. They excel at these subjects, and conveniently, science and mathematics are important subjects to be proficient in for coding. Since they are already predisposed to logical thinking, kids with autism do well with tasks that require a lot of structure, repetition, and precision. Plus, it can help their early literacy as code deals with a lot of words.

Organization and consistency are qualities needed for coding, and most children with autism value these traits highly.

Improves Socialization

Coding is project-based, and in projects, you have to interact a lot with your team. For those struggling with social interactions, projects that give a framework towards the same goal can help them improve their social skills. Communicating with their team, collaborating on tasks that need an extra hand, and just learning how to navigate conversations in general. This continued feedback loop of doing tasks and being complimented for it is a great boost to a child’s self-esteem and confidence. By giving them a skill, they can show off, it makes them happy and stress-free.

Incentivizes Creativity

The majority of children with autism tend to have a sort of hyper-focus on the things they find fun or interesting.  Coincidentally, there are also a lot of them who enjoy technology, from simple things such as playing games to complicated stuff like, well, coding! Coding may be a problem-solving field at its core, but the paths to solving said problem incentivize creativity. While it’s structured, the given rules to it are open in such a way that unorthodox solutions can be reached.

Deeper Understanding

Coding can help not only autistic children, but others to understand how their mind works. Children with autism find it difficult to portray their thoughts to others. Coding, being a visual-narrative tool, is a concrete way of showcasing their skill and thought process to the average person. By seeing how they deal with coding problems, and how much they value structure and consistency, can help an inexperienced person learn the best way to interact with autistic children.

Not to mention, coding itself is a great way for autistic children to learn about themselves. They may be able to relate to the code itself, associating the code itself with the way their brain works, and find comfort in that. By having this outlet for their quirks and skills, they can better integrate themselves into society.

Spatial Intelligence

Spatial intelligence is the ability to visualize well-structured images in your head and translating those images into reality. These abilities can be found in architects, engineers, and of course, coders. With the natural propensity for children on the spectrum to be logical, building their spatial intelligence is vital to their development. Coding is a very visual activity, and thank its repetitive and organized nature, visualization will come easier.

Practical Work Skills

Coding can instill values in children with autism that they can apply in a practical real-world setting. Skills such as teamwork, project management, problem-solving, patience, and determination can be learned through coding.  Coding, in essence, is an exercise in working towards one end result. The means to that destination can be anything, and that variety is what enables children to use a variety of skills to solve it. Not to mention, coding is a very valuable skill in the job market right now, especially with the popularity of WFH setups after the COVID-19 pandemic. Employment can be difficult for young adults with autism, so finding their niche in coding significantly increases their chance of employment.

Conclusion

Coding is a great hobby and career option for children with autism. The inherent structure of coding while still allowing for creativity, all in a project-based setting that incentivizes socialization, makes it an all-in-one positive experience for kids on the spectrum.

Written by Arleen Atienza. She is a licensed Psychometrician who earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Miriam College, Quezon City, Philippines.