Tech Star Kids” Teaches Computer Science to Children with Autism

Share Article

Have Dreams launches program to teach computer programming and teamwork by creating video games.

Have Dreams, a not-for-profit organization that provides services to children with Autism, has developed a program to teach computer programming and social through the design and creation of video games.

The program, called "Tech Star Kids” teaches children aged 9-13 who are categorized as having “High Functioning Autism” (or in some cases referred to as Asperger’s Syndrome). The goal of the program is to provide social interaction by working as a software development team, and then using the creation of a video game as a motivation to learn computer programming.

A successful pilot of the program took place at the Evanston Have Dreams location in August 2011, and a new class will begin in October. Tech Star Kids utilized many of the popular software tools that are used to teach computer programming to young children, including Alice 2.0, Scratch, and Robocode.

“The students are a unique combination of being both gifted and disabled, and this class is designed to address both those needs,” explained Kathryn Born, one of the creators of the program. “They learn software faster and have better concentration then their neurotypical peers. However, managing the learning environment requires much greater structure and a very high student/teacher ratio, as the students resist following instructions and working as a team.”

Research about employment statistics for individuals with Asperger’s has been reported to be as low at 12%. As the need for information technology professionals grows, Have Dreams is striving to provide vocational instruction to students at a young age, in an effort to help them prepare for mainstream computer science programs, or vocations within the tech industry.

Born continues, “the Information Technology industry is a perfect match for these kids. There are lots of jobs, an environment where they can work independently, and workplaces where social skills aren’t as important as the ability to code and move technology forward. We found that for adults with mild Asperger’s, many had found a social life in ‘Geek culture’; things like Linux groups and robotics competitions. We wanted to create that same kind of camaraderie for pre-teens with special needs.”

The program also aims to expand to non-verbal children, who have responded positively to touch-screen computers, and been able to demonstrate more proficiency than many parents and educators thought was possible.

About Have Dreams
Have Dreams is a is a 501(c)3 organization that aspires to help children with autism improve their abilities to learn, function independently and socialize so that they may realize their full potential and develop into contributing members of their communities.

Have Dreams was founded in 1996 by a small group of parents and educators in northwest suburban Park Ridge seeking autism programs for their children extending beyond the school day. Parents along with visionary professionals, educator Kris Johnsen, Dr. Catherine Lord, and Dr. Kathleen Kennedy Martin developed the first Have Dreams program, a Social Skills class, for the original seven children who launched the organization. The Social Skills class was held once a week in a room above the Oakton Ice Arena in Park Ridge. Have Dreams now serves over 140 children and families with autism at locations in Park Ridge and Evanston, Illinois.

Have Dreams (Evanston Location) is 2020 Dempster St. Evanston, IL 60202, Phone: 847-905-0702, Fax: 847-905-0684

# # #

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Kathryn Born
Visit website