Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist Kahlia Wingfield is working with Curtin University and The Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance (AASQA) to harness the special talents of people with autism.
Now in its second year, the program takes in adolescents who have autism who are interested in computers and coding.
“Every Saturday morning during the university year there is a Coding Club at Curtin University,” Kahlia said.
“It allows students who are interested in coding to gain hard skills, as well as network with other young people who have similar interests.”
“Volunteers monitor the sessions and act as mentors, providing group and one-on-one support to upskill participants. Those with similar skill levels are put together to try and target more specific skills.”
Upskilling young people with autism is only half the picture though. AASQA also work with employers to create pathways to valued, long-term employment, whilst addressing the business needs of the Australian Information Communication Technology industry.
A few participants who are in year 11 or 12 or who have been identified to have the skills and capabilities to transfer into a workplace environment will do so with assistance from their school and family, Kahlia said.
“We link in with the participant’s existing network to discuss how much time off school for work experience is appropriate and the school will provide the academic standards that are expected of the work placement.
“We also gather as much information about the participant’s learning/socialising/general behaviours as we can. This helps us set up the participant for success.”
In addition to working with students, Kahlia also works closely with the founder and director of AASQA, Professor Tele Tan. Professor Tan explained why having an occupational therapist on board was so important.
“The support that Kahlia provides is key to identifying the strengths of participants and matching these strengths with jobs that will enable them to continue their self-development,” Professor Tan said.
“By tailoring the experience, both students and employers get the very most out of the opportunity.”
To learn more AASQA, visit the Curtin University website.