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A New Program for Asperger’s Students

A Boulder school is boosting Asperger's students' social skills by teaching them how to program.

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People with Asperger’s syndrome, often high-functioning individuals on the autism spectrum, may have a hard time navigating small talk, but they pick up another language pretty quickly. Temple Grandin School, named after the Colorado State University professor who has Asperger’s, discovered this in March when it launched a class that teaches students with Asperger’s and similar learning profiles how to write computer code. Volunteer Fred Gluck designed the curriculum using materials from Bitsbox, a Boulder startup that teaches programming to kids. “Having that common activity allows them to relax their anxieties and engage socially while doing something else that’s motivating them,” says Polly Dana, the head of Temple Grandin School. The school (grades six to 12) plans to build on that success this month by offering grads of the class (along with Gluck and staffers) the chance to teach a new group the basics of coding. Although the idea is for students to stretch their social skills, it’s also practical: In April, Microsoft launched a pilot jobs program that targets workers with autism. An eye for detail and focus make them prime candidates to be the next Bill Gates—who’s suspected of having Asperger’s himself.

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