People on the autism spectrum are getting the support and skills they need to break into the tech industry. And it's all thanks to a new program for autistic people, by autistic people.
A new startup called Coding Autism, which launched earlier this month, is developing a school in Los Angeles to teach autistic people coding, web development, and software engineering skills.
Participants in the program will attend a 15-week, full-time bootcamp to build up their tech talents. The program also includes resume workshops, career counseling, interview preparation, and access to professional mentors.
Once they graduate the program, Coding Autism will help participants find employment in the tech industry. Students will also showcase their portfolios on Coding Autism's website, so potential employers can find them.
Oliver Thornton, CEO and cofounder of Coding Autism, created the program to help autistic people like himself get into stable, lucrative tech careers.
"We are creating a formula for success for autistic individuals for them to thrive in their professions and their lives," Thornton said in a video promoting the project.
About 1 in 68 adults in the U.S. fall somewhere on the autism spectrum. Even though the prevalence of autism is quite high, stigma and misconceptions around autism spectrum disorders still impact the community — especially when it comes to employment. According to the United Nations, the unemployment rate of autistic adults is estimated to be 80 percent.
About 500,000 programming and engineering jobs open up each year in the tech industry, meaning there's massive potential for new talent to enter the profession. Yet only 1 percent of those positions are filled with autistic talent.
Many autistic adults, however, have excelled in the tech industry because of intrinsic attention to detail 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."
Coding Autism is crowdfunding to completely cover the tuition for the inaugural class of 15 students. At the time of writing, the company has raised almost $40,000 of its $50,000 goal.
But the program, Thornton said, isn't just about closing the employment gap for autistic adults. It's also about bettering tech companies and their products by including the autistic community's essential perspective.
"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.
The first Coding Autism class is slated to begin in late summer or early fall of this year. As the program grows, the startup plans to offer online classes to reach even more autistic people across the U.S.
[H/T The Mighty]