Code Connect 4 All

Student with autism successfully overcomes social and academic challenges to help other kids with austism via his non-profit CodeConnect4All

Photo of Kunal Mohindra
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Written by

Date You Started Your Project Started

09/14/2017

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

According to the CDC in 2018, 1 in 37 boys and 1 in 151 girls were diagnosed with autism, with most not being diagnosed until after the age of four. About 44% of autistic people have an average IQ, but remain unemployed because they lack technical skills. Research reveals that early intervention improves their learning and communication skills. So, I founded CodeConnect4All to teach technical skills to students with autism at an early young age.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

I have successfully overcome autism through the use of technology and have achieved many academic and personal goals as a result. Since students with autism feel isolated in and out of school, I created CodeConnect4All with the mission of connecting students with autism to neurotypical students through a common vernacular: programming languages. Through CodeConnect4All, I teach Scratch, Swift, and robotics at various local libraries and after-school enrichment programs. I have partnered with IBM to teach week-long summer camps to underserved boys and girls, including those with autism. Through these events, I provide a forum for autistic students to learn new technical skills and interact with neurotypical students to improve their social skills; this also affords neurotypical students the opportunity to learn about those who are different from them. As an Eagle Scout, I help recruit Cub Scouts who are neurotypical and those with disabilities and mentor them, thus opening a pathway for all students to socialize and thereby reduce the incidence of bullying. I am also recruiting like-minded, empathetic students who inspire each other to drive the mission of the organization forward.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I was diagnosed with autism when I was three years old. I was non-verbal, making it very difficult for me to communicate with my family. This frustrated and angered me as a child. As a result, I became disruptive and often threw fiery tantrums. I desperately wanted to be like my older sisters, who had a much easier time interacting and communicating with others. One day, my sisters taught me how to use the Scratch programming language to create games. I soon fell in love with creating my own games, as they provided me with an outlet to express myself. I found this new mode of communication to be very liberating and empowering. Little did I know, this simple introduction to computer science would soon become my creative outlet. Now, I am motivated to share my love of self-expression through coding with other students with disabilities who may be facing similar struggles as I once did.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

I founded CodeConnect4All with the goal of providing students with disabilities, much like myself, a safe environment in which they can learn computer programming through fun and engaging programming exercises along with their neurotypical peers. It is encouraging to see all students collaborate with each other irrespective of their disability.This collaboration reduces isolation and bullying students with disabilities face on a daily basis and also teaches them valuable technical skills.

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

The CodeConnect4All organization serves as a catalyst for change. Many students with special needs are not exposed to science and technology in school in a way that makes it fun and engaging. As a result, they are often unwilling to choose careers in STEM. I host workshops and camps where students get hands-on experience ranging from building their own robots to writing code for their own video games. As they learn various skills, they can start mentoring younger kids, setting up a ripple effect that engages and empowers everyone involved. I continue to mentor students throughout their school career in partnership with engineers from companies like IBM and Amazon. CodeConnect4All extends its outreach to Boy and Girl Scouts, students in underserved communities, and the SPARC organization. CodeConnect4All is an inclusive program that aims to support and engage all students in STEM.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Despite being diagnosed with autism at a young age, I was determined not to let the label “autism” define me. My drive has led me to do some incredible things like becoming an AP Scholar, Eagle Scout, and 2019 Apple WWDC scholar. But it wasn’t easy. I personally understand the challenges faced everyday by students with autism and how indispensable having a community and outlet can be. CodeConnect4All goes beyond other programs as we 1) introduce key technical skills early on, 2) provide a safe community with which to hone communication skills, and 3) provide a creative outlet for students.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Since its inception two years ago, CodeConnect4All has changed people's perception regarding autism. As the poster child for a student with autism who overcame immense challenges to become an Eagle Scout and AP Scholar, I understand the unique challenges faced by students with disabilities. My workshops in after-school enrichment programs have increased engagement and cooperation between students of all abilities, thereby decreasing isolation and bullying of students with disabilities. My weekly classes at local libraries have encouraged some students with autism to form “Physical Computing” clubs at their schools and, in turn, teach other students. CodeConnect4All has partnered with Amazon, IBM, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts to provide outreach to underserved students. My organization has given immense hope to parents regarding the future of their children with disabilities.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

The next phase of growth for my organization will be completed in a two-pronged approach, expanding both its physical and online reach. I plan to expand my programs to more libraries, after-school programs, and local high schools. With this expansion comes the need to recruit chapter leads who can teach the classes along with me. Since students have a wealth of information at their fingertips, I want to record educational tutorials and post them online to make these classes available to students in other states and countries. Lastly, because parents play a pivotal role in their children’s development, I want to create a CodeConnect4All Facebook group to allow parents and students to learn about upcoming events and network with one another.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Staff Development

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 66.7%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 66.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 66.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

1 comment

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Photo of Isaiah Johnson
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I love the work that you're doing. You have a compelling story and are clearly using it to help people with similar backgrounds. Not only that but I see the importance in your teaching tech to a demographic who may not otherwise have the opportunity. Keep it up!