For children suffering from autism, reading for understanding is often challenging but with the help of new technology they can realise their actual potential.
‘Hour of Code’, a global campaign by Microsoft, commits to increase access of computer science education to youth with a focus on specially-abled children.
The initiative along with NGO Tamana—an educational hub helping the cause of mentally challenged and autistic children, seeks to introduce coding and computational thinking to promote I-T based opportunities among such children.
“Technology is a promoter of your potential and it doesn’t pose as such any threat to the autistic. Such children usually do not want to be told what to do, also they usually do not like eye contact. Therefore, with technology they are able to do things themselves. It is the only way forward for such children.
“This initiative is a ‘youth spark’ and this word is common to all youth. It is not necessarily for those who are specially-abled,” says Dr Shyama Chona, President of Tamana, which organised a day-long workshop to promote such opportunities.
The organisation also launched HOPE application- a therapeutic educational application to enhance cognition in children with autism.
Chona believes a cooperative ecosystem around such children is an essential requirement since a lot of patience is required to understand them.
“You need to have a trained teacher because everybody does not have the same patience in understanding their speed to catch up things.
“It might take many long hours to reach the same conclusion for one child then those who got the instinctive understanding of that particular thing,” she says.
The philanthropic, who has been rewarded with Padma Shree for her efforts, says books and disciplined classrooms are actually not the forte of such children.
“Books and disciplined classrooms is not their actual forte. They want freedom from people around. With computer, their concentration level goes up and you realise their potential in a much better way. They hear and control the sounds, and can easily close it when they want to,” she says.
During the workshop, students used Minecraft tools to build coding programmes and experience computing.
The impact of such programmes vary from children to children, Chona says.
“They have desire to learn but the outcome may be slow. Here we have special educators who have actually done research. They work together with technical educators to provide effective knowledge to children.
“The initiatives we take here help such children learn social skills. Discipline somehow in technology is self-created, so whatever these children learn they feel that they have learnt it themselves,” she says.
While talking about the initiative, Manju Dhasman, Lead-Philanthropies and CSR at Microsoft says, “Coding along with computer science education at an early stage is crucial to develop critical thinking among youth. Such events offer a unique opportunity for specially-abled children to learn in an easy and interactive way.”