Kids with autism paired with "non-spectrum peers" to learn coding in Detroit

- It started with one small interaction, a mom watching her autistic child speak for the first time and realizing her son made it happen.

She started crying when she realized what he did but also what so many others like him could do with the help of another child, a peer.

That moment developed into a movement.

"I'm Jayden Woods and I'm here, hello friend,” Jayden said.

 Nina's not hung up on protocol. she has love for every autistic child and her new 24-week program teaching them coding, robotics, art and music. 

"These kids get in your heart and all you want to see is for them to do better," Gordon said.

Four weeks into the program and she's already seen stuff, "nothing short of amazing happen."

"When I say these kids have made major leaps is an understatement. The kids came in not really talking to each other, not knowing each other to not understanding, to running in excited."

"He's opening up. I was so shocked, he wanted to leave me today,” Bukeka Danforth-White said. 

The parents see it too, and Brandon's mom certainly does. He's considered nonverbal, but in his STEM class he’s communicating.

"We got here, the first thing he did was he saw his mentor, pulled him over and said let's go. I'm like wow, we have something here. This is something that's exciting him which excites me,” Danforth-White said.

"It's like he has a certain a comfort because he's among his peers,” she said.

Having that peer, may be the difference.

"He said mom wasn't this good he said this is amazing, how did you do it?"

After first meeting Nina, she explained when she realized how powerful another child can be in helping someone on the spectrum.

Her own son spoke for the first time because of his brother.

That's what makes the program unique, each autistic student is paired with a "neurotypical child" who is not on the spectrum.

Fox 2: "He can't wait to see you you're a friend.” 

“I know It scares me sometimes,” Mathews said.

Jordan Mathews is Brandon's peer mentor, the two now have the kind of bond that could last forever.

 Fox 2: "He might be a part of your life forever.”

“Right and I'm fine with that," he said.

"We're going to see these kids through graduation and through their adult years, I already see it, it's like a little family," Gordon said.

If you're interest in volunteering head to Charliesjourney.org.

Nina's goal is getting a resource center up and running in Detroit where she says autistic kids are very underserved.
 

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