Autism Speaks is putting big money behind efforts to train people with autism to code, betting that the unique talents of those on the spectrum pair well with the high-demand field.
The nonprofit said it’s backing 14 programs at sites across the country, all working to teach people with autism to code and learn other digital literacy skills with grants worth as much as $25,000 apiece.
The funds are being provided through the so-called NXT GEN Coders Program, a joint effort of Autism Speaks and retailer GameStop, which raised funds for the initiative. The effort, which is in its first year, is designed to help address high unemployment and underemployment among adults with autism.
“NXT GEN Coders grants will expand access to programs teaching skills that are in high demand, positioning more people with autism for careers and helping them achieve greater independence,” said Thomas Frazier, chief science officer at Autism Speaks.
The initial round of grants are going to a variety of organizations and schools to provide scholarships or improve programs.
Autism Speaks said 38 proposals were submitted for the NXT GEN Coders Program this year, all of which were reviewed by coding industry professionals and adults on the spectrum who work in the computing or gaming fields. Programs were evaluated based on their track record of serving people with autism, sustainability, likelihood that they could be replicated and their ability to scale.
Grants will go to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Stoneham & Wakefield in Stoneham, Mass.; Coding Autism in Westlake Village, Calif.; Families Helping Families NOLA in New Orleans; Friends of Green Chimneys in Brewster, N.Y.; Islands of Brilliance in Milwaukee; the MacDonald Training Center in Tampa, Fla.; the National Foundation for Autism Research in San Diego; the nonPareil Institute in Plano, Texas; Tech Kids Unlimited in New York City; Tech Talent South in Charlotte, N.C.; The Specialists Guild in San Francisco; We Connect the Dots in Westbury, N.Y.; Woodhaven Learning Center in Columbia, Mo.; and Yukodit in Montclair, N.J.