By Jessica Uscamayta, a summer 2016 intern at the Global Autism Project
Molly Ola Pinney, the Founder and CEO of the Global Autism Project, and I visited the innovative headquarters of Microsoft at Times Square to give a training session on ABA techniques. Microsoft will be partnering with We Connect the Dots to offer coding camps where children of ages 13-18 will have the chance to learn basic coding skills and how to apply these skills as well as other techniques out in the real world. Molly greeted everyone in the room with a warm welcome, followed by presenting a video titled “What is Autism,” which showcased the Global Autism Project’s three R.A.I.S.E. employees, Rusty, Edwin, and Alex which led to her brief explanation on the work she is currently doing with the dedicated staff at The Global Autism Project.
Molly brought useful techniques to help these future leaders in the room on how to approach and structure their lessons each day when they come into contact with someone who is on the spectrum. Molly quickly transitioned to getting everyone into separate small groups where each was given an instruction to write down the first thing that came to their mind when asked, “What is Autism?” Words ranging from DSM classification, genetic, hereditary, beautiful, spectrum, knowledge were sprawled across each whiteboard. Through these words I realized not only how far our society has come in accepting autism but also how far we have yet to go in terms of understanding it. Simple tricks involving lifesavers, filing in a single line and interpreting everyday rules in a classroom were the many activities that were made up by Molly in her training session which made these high schoolers test their wit and question their every day normalcies. As the day wore on, it was clear to everyone, that these techniques were not only proven to be useful for students with autism, but for any student!
We rounded up the day with some good takeaways from the session. Mine had to be when Molly kept saying, “We shouldn’t say, ‘its common sense to know we all shouldn’t smash our laptops on the ground!’” Which was followed by her reenactment of someone excitedly lifting up their laptop and smashing it on the ground. The basic takeaway from this lesson was that although people may find it funny to see someone smash their laptop to the ground, mostly everyone will understand that it is an act that shouldn’t be done; unless you are a person with autism. A person with autism, who suffers from social deficits may see the initial reaction of how a laptop being smashed on the ground can make a room full of people laugh, which ultimately helps in that struggling area of social interaction.
Overall, the question that still resonated with me after the session was over was that of, “how should we deal with a student with autism if the situation arises?” The answer to this is different and special with every individual that you encounter with autism. Like Molly said and countless others continue to say, “When you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.” Through our continued work in spreading awareness of autism to upcoming generations we can help shape our answers on that whiteboard so that autism is no longer seen as a disability but as an opportunity for more. Twenty years ago we probably couldn’t even say autism and coding in the same sentence without someone stopping to scratch their head for a minute. Today, we are teaching classrooms to be more knowledgeable about students who could be on the spectrum. I’d say that Microsoft, We Connect the Dots, the Global Autism Project and probably countless other organizations are helping to ensure our future with autism awareness can only progress from this point forward!