Teaching Coding to Kids/Teens with Autism

Coding is one of my favorite topics that I teach when I'm doing science tutoring for students with autism. Many of my students love coding and it's so fun to see them excelling at a skill they really enjoy.

While coding is a great vocational skill for older students to learn, it's also great for helping younger students with skills like problem-solving, thinking about things in different ways, and persistence.

My favorite website for teaching coding to kids is Code.org. It offers online "classes" with both hands-on, offline activities and online activities that are like games. Many of the classes feature popular characters, such as Angry Birds, Frozen, etc. The classes start with very basic skills, so it's easy for parents and teachers to go through the classes with their students and learn along the way with them. It's also free!

Code.org also offers another website called "Hour of Code." These are stand-alone activities that each take about one hour to complete, although many of my students finish in under an hour. Most of these activities start at a beginner level, and work up to bigger activities such as making your own simple game. You'll find Hour of Code activities with themes such as Star Wars and Minecraft (among many others), so you can probably find something that would spark your child or student's interest.

When I'm teaching certain coding concepts, I like to "act out" what we'll be coding before we do the activity on the computer. Here are a couple of examples:

Repeat Loop:

When coding this, it makes the computer repeat an action (or series of actions) a certain number of times. I let one of my students make up some actions that he would like me to do and pick a number of times to repeat the actions. I had originally given him the choice of 2, 3, or 4 times, but he wanted ten. :) So, I was pretty tired out by the end of acting out this loop! It was totally worth it because my student loved it and I think it illustrated the concept before we did this code.org activity on the computer.

If/Else Statements:

In this code, the computer does one action if a certain condition is present and does something else if it isn't present. To demonstrate this, I have a picture on my computer of a favorite character on my computer screen, and I don't show it to the student yet. We write the if statement, then I reveal the picture and we act it out.

In the code written on the card below, if the picture is Darth Vader, I pretend to fight. If it's any other character, I pretend to walk up to them and say hello. We then repeat this process with other characters.

If you'd like to work on coding with your children or students, there are so many great websites available! A few of my favorites that start out very simple and make it pretty easy to work through it with your child or student are listed here:

Code.org (Click on "Learn"): https://code.org/

Hour of Code: https://hourofcode.com/

Code Combat: https://codecombat.com/

If you're near the Rockwall, Texas area and would be interested in your child working on these skills, please check out my free STEM clubs for kids and teens with autism on these sites:

Aspire Robotics Website: http://aspirerobotics.weebly.com/

Aspire Robotics Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AspireRobotics/

If you're interested in learning more about math and science tutoring with Dr. Caldwell, that information is here: https://www.autismhomeschoolsuccess.com/in-home-online-math-science-instruc

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