katharine_childs
Raspberry Pi Foundation Employee & Forum Moderator
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Creating autism-friendly Code Clubs

Wed Feb 06, 2019 2:30 pm

Do you have children who are on the autistic spectrum in your Code Club? We've just published a blog post about an autism-friendly Code Club in Kent.

What tips and techniques have you found work well to support children on the autistic spectrum in your club?
__________
Katharine Childs
Programme Coordinator, Code Club
Raspberry Pi Foundation

Forris
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Re: Creating autism-friendly Code Clubs

Wed Feb 06, 2019 4:54 pm

YES! And it's brilliant!

I've had children in my Codeclubs that cover a wide range of additional needs since staring them over 3 years ago. The first child ,S, was someone that I knew about anyway as I knew his parents, and he became my 'right-hand man' for his final year in primary :-)

The first time I realised that I had a child with different needs was a bit scary for me, as I am not a teacher and had no experience in dealing with kids. G was very fidgety for the whole of his first session, constantly getting out of his seat and wandering around, not focusing on the task. When his mum came to pick him up, she asked how he had got on and said she was worried because of his ADHD, at which point his behaviour made more sense. A couple of days later, I managed to grab a chat with the school's SENCo (I must point out that I am also a Governor at the school and a PTA member, so am well known within the school, which gives me a bit more access to school resources than a regular volunteer) and asked about G. She told me what the issues were, which also included dyslexia, and we spoke about how that was managed in class and how I could manage it in Codeclub to help G get as much as he could out of it. For the next week, I printed the project resources out for G, on a cream-coloured paper, and made a point of making contact with him every 5 or 10 minutes. He stayed focused and concentrated all session and didn't leave his seat once :-)

The SENCo is now my first port of call at the start of a new term. She goes through the list of kids with me, highlighting any that have additional needs and giving me ways of managing those in Codeclub.

I have learned a lot about SEN requirements, especially (and this is so important with autism) that there are endless variations in how any of these conditions presents in any given child. The child I mentioned right at the start, S, was very capable but had problems with socialising and relating to others, as well as being averse to a lot of sensory input. But he was very good at self-managing and would often wear ear-defenders to help him concentrate. Some of my current groups have anxiety issues and like to listen to music, so they do that (through headphones, of course!) either via their phone or from a (carefully monitored) Youtube channel.

I currently have one young man, who is in Yr4, who is awaiting a diagnosis for autism. E is really bright but has a very limited attention span. I use a similar tactic to the one I used with G, in that I try to make contact with him at least every 10 minutes and, instead of letting him work through the project on his own, I talk through each section with him and set him the task of finishing one part before asking for me. I find this helps him to stay on-task, and he delights in ticking the boxes on the Codeclub resources when he has finished a particular section. He'll then quite often come and take my hand and lead me back to his seat so that he can show me what he has done :-)

So, for me at least, I would say that the best thing has been having access to the SENCo and the other teachers so that I can talk through any issues and use their knowledge and experience to help me ensure that the kids get as much out of Codeclub as possible. I also feed back any issues that I see and, indeed, anything that I think needs to be celebrated in a wider setting. I have found that some kids that may not be particularly gifted in regular classes often find something that they really excel at and enjoy in Codeclub, so I always make sure to feed that info back to the teacher.

As I said at the start, I was scared when I realised I had a child with extra needs, because I didn't know if *I* could deal with it. Now, I love having these kids in my clubs as it brings a different dynamic as well as new challenges (not just for me, but also for some of my 'old-timers' that I use as mentors occasionally) and in all honesty, these are the types of kids that stand to gain so much from participating in something like Codeclub.

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blachanc
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Re: Creating autism-friendly Code Clubs

Wed Feb 06, 2019 5:08 pm

As a father of a kid on the autistic spectrum,
I am pleased to see some people going the extra mile to accommodate kids with special needs.

Congratulation to both of you !!
Ben
Autism/Asperger syndrome: what is your score on this quiz?
http://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=62&t=70191

Forris
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Re: Creating autism-friendly Code Clubs

Fri Feb 08, 2019 5:39 pm

blachanc wrote:
Wed Feb 06, 2019 5:08 pm
As a father of a kid on the autistic spectrum,
I am pleased to see some people going the extra mile to accommodate kids with special needs.

Congratulation to both of you !!
Ben
To be honest, it's been a complete revelation to me. I'm ashamed to say that, before I got involved with the school, I was completely ignorant of SEN and didn't really believe that things like ADHD were a real condition. My 3+ years running Codeclubs have really opened my eyes, not only to the huge range of Mental Health and learning issues that some families have to deal with, but also to how absolutely amazing these kids can be if given the right opportunities.

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rpdom
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Re: Creating autism-friendly Code Clubs

Fri Feb 08, 2019 6:09 pm

There is at least one child in our Code Club who is on the spectrum. That hasn't been an issue for us.

My step-son, on the other hand is too low functioning to manage any coding.

karenpeacock
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Re: Creating autism-friendly Code Clubs

Thu Mar 21, 2019 1:22 pm

We have children in our code club with different learning challenges who get on really well with coding and enjoy it. The school never give me any information about a child's individual needs or offer guidance with how to manage them. I assumed this was due to child confidentiality so it's interesting to hear that other schools do provide this type of information and assistance. However what they do provide is a teacher who assists the code club and so I will get her assistance with anything I don't feel qualified to handle.

I did have one boy join who unfortunately didn't stay for long (a couple of weeks). He was really so keen on joining the club but once he started he only wanted to play games rather than coding. The teacher who assists with the code club gave him a lot of one to one assistance. Even so, he would become very frustrated if he didn't get to play games or search the web when he wanted to, often ending up with him leaving the room (and the teacher following him), so in the end he decided not to continue with the club.

I felt disappointed for him because he had initially been so excited by the idea of the club. From reading the article I can see that the size of our club was too large for him (20+ pupils). Also at the start of the year the club is very hectic because all new recruits are understanding how things work and what to do. In hindsight perhaps he would've preferred to start a few weeks later once things had quietened down. I'll suggest this should he want to try again.

I'd love to run a smaller autism-friendly club but time doesn't allow it at the moment. It's something I'll bear in mind for the future. Thanks for sharing the blog post.

Forris
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Re: Creating autism-friendly Code Clubs

Fri Mar 22, 2019 3:13 pm

karenpeacock wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 1:22 pm
We have children in our code club with different learning challenges who get on really well with coding and enjoy it. The school never give me any information about a child's individual needs or offer guidance with how to manage them. I assumed this was due to child confidentiality so it's interesting to hear that other schools do provide this type of information and assistance. However what they do provide is a teacher who assists the code club and so I will get her assistance with anything I don't feel qualified to handle.

I did have one boy join who unfortunately didn't stay for long (a couple of weeks). He was really so keen on joining the club but once he started he only wanted to play games rather than coding. The teacher who assists with the code club gave him a lot of one to one assistance. Even so, he would become very frustrated if he didn't get to play games or search the web when he wanted to, often ending up with him leaving the room (and the teacher following him), so in the end he decided not to continue with the club.

I felt disappointed for him because he had initially been so excited by the idea of the club. From reading the article I can see that the size of our club was too large for him (20+ pupils). Also at the start of the year the club is very hectic because all new recruits are understanding how things work and what to do. In hindsight perhaps he would've preferred to start a few weeks later once things had quietened down. I'll suggest this should he want to try again.

I'd love to run a smaller autism-friendly club but time doesn't allow it at the moment. It's something I'll bear in mind for the future. Thanks for sharing the blog post.
Hi Karen.

Yes, I'm very lucky to have access to the SENCo and the class teachers and am able to get info and advice about any of the kids. But if you look at it from the other way, letting me have that sort of info is ultimately helping the kids, which is what it's all about in the end. I also try to foster good relationships with the parents, especially those of SEN kids, which also helps.

It is a shame when you have kids that you know really enjoy Codeclub but don't stay for very long. Like you said, it's not usually a quiet environment, and kids that have anxiety or sensory issues can often feel overwhelmed. I always allow kids like that to listen to music on headphones if they wish but, I agree, it would be great to be able to run a calmer club for them.

Any of my Codeclubbers (and I have some that have been with me for over 2 years now) and especially those with additional needs, always have an open invitation to come along whenever they feel up to it. My clubs are very unstructured anyway (although perhaps that could be a barrier in itself to some children. Hmm...) so as long as there's a free seat they can just turn up and I'll find a project for them to have a go at.

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