For an Autistic Child, TFA Class Sparks an Interest
Until now, Adam hadn’t been interested in the computer. The 3rd grader with high functioning autism preferred to walk in patterns around the classroom instead of sitting at his desk.
But on this day, the instructor was having the kids work with game-making software. The software uses a simple interface that lets students develop a basic computer game. The children are learning about technology at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Bastrop County (BGBC) program in Smithville in a partnership with Technology For All (TFA).
The day started out as normal with Adam’s sister, Connie*, taking him gently by the hand and leading him into the classroom. Adam shuffled in the door and stood next to Connie as she sat at the computer, then he paced back and forth behind his sister’s chair as she worked on today’s lesson.
Then something unusual happened. Something on the computer screen caught Adam’s interest and he sat down next to his sister.
“I thought Adam had missed class, because I didn’t see him walking around”, said John Dees, TFA Training Manager who was monitoring the TFA classes.
Adam sat down by his sister and together they worked hard to make characters move around the screen and make noises. With some help from Connie, Adam typed some commands to make an animated cat move across the screen. He was captivated by the cat’s movements, changing a command to make the cat change direction.
When the class was over around 45 minutes later, Adam took some urging from his sister to leave the computer. He finally did, after their work on the software was saved for the next lesson.
Dees told Adam and Connie’s mom after class how her children had done. She was excited about Adam’s interest in the software, and proud of what Connie had learned as well. “I can’t believe what they did! That’s great,” she said, as she smiled and hugged her kids.
Dees said it was amazing what Adam, Connie and the other young students had done with the software. Some students made “music videos” by adding songs to the animated character’s motions to make them dance. Others created simple games, like moving a character through a maze. But Dees was most excited by Adam’s sustained engagement with the software.
All the kids did great, but we’re especially excited about what Adam did and what it might mean for his potential. Maybe we have a budding software professional. At home, Adam uses a tablet to play games, but doesn’t have access to a computer except through school and now through the TFA program at BGBC. His mother said he does not usually show an interest in computers, but he did on that day and during the next couple of lessons.
The partnership between TFA and the BGBC resulted in a technology program that taught students Internet safety and security, digital photography, game software development, and tools useful for school work.
“TFA has helped the club become more effective users of technology through classes such as using the Internet safely, working with word processors, creating games, taking and editing photos and videos, and other related topics,” said Prentiss Collins, interim director of BGBC.
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*Not their real names.