RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Tyler Robertson never knew he would make an excellent computer science teacher, but he found that path with Agile Charities after he was a student at the nonprofit.
“Building a network is a really nice thing to do, and it’s very difficult to do as an autistic person,” says Robertson, who was diagnosed at an early age. “So this program really helps out with that.”
The program hosted by UMFS can help individuals with autism hone technology and communication skills.
“There’s a lot of other people just like Tyler buried out there,” says Agile Charities CEO Dennis Bragg. “No one’s found them. They don’t interview well, but they make wonderful employees.”
Bragg explains Agile Charities students complete coding, web design and other courses at home. They then meet with volunteer instructors and fellow classmates to discuss what they learned.
“It’s like a really big study group,” Bragg describes.
Speakers from different STEM fields also come in to share day-today experiences.
“What we’re trying to present in the classroom as much as we can is what they would find in real life in a real company,” says Bragg.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates one in every 68 children is on the autism spectrum, but many individuals have challenges holding a job because of issues communicating.
Robertson, who has his undergraduate degree from Springfield College in Massachusetts, says he does not do well with job interviews.
“I just kind of freeze up,” he admits.
Agile Charities has helped him and other students break the ice and connect with potential careers.
“A program like this where you can get a number of autistic people in the same kind of classroom and learning the same material and they’re all on the same foot and allows them to develop social skills,” Robertson says. “They can start building a network of people who know that they’re actively learning and actively pursuing marketable skills.”
Robertson, who is currently deciding between Master’s degree programs at universities in Massachusetts and Oregon, hopes to be a software developer for Apple or Google one day.
He appreciates what Agile Charities has done for him sitting in the classroom and standing in front of it.
“It is helping people, so it’s a really nice thing to do.”
Agile Charities also offers programs for minorities and women, who only make up an estimated 8 percent of software developers.
Follow this link for more information about the program.