AUSTIN, Texas -- Youth Code Jam, a group that holds free events to introduce kids of all ages to coding, is holding a low-sensory Code Jam on Saturday.

  • Group pushes for neurodiversity in tech industry
  • Held a low-sensory event to introduce coding to youth

The event specifically caters to kids that are neurodiverse, meaning that they are on the autism spectrum, or have other cognitive differences. 

“The way of thinking, the way the world looks, to me, is definitely different. I’ve learned a lot to adapt to the environment I'm in. A lot of autistic adults do, especially when you're on the higher functioning end of the spectrum, as you learn to meet the needs of the world, because often the world doesn’t meet you, your needs,” said Megan Roddie, a cyber-threat researcher for IBM who is also on the autism spectrum

People who are on the autism spectrum face many challenges. 

“It’s a different view of the world. We have challenges with social interactions, especially, and then sometimes just, you know, daily functioning, executive functioning, being able to do the day-to-day tasks, and you know, perform routine behaviors that that kind of thing is, is more of a challenge. And so, just kind of seeing the world differently,” said Roddie.

Nonetheless, Megan has found a home in the cyber security industry. 

“The logic that I follow really works for me in the industry. And I’ve also found this cyber security industry, the community, is amazing. I felt very comfortable making friends and colleagues and stuff in cyber security in a way that I didn't find elsewhere,” said Roddie.

Now, Megan embraces being on the autism spectrum, and advocates for companies to hire more neurodiverse people. 

“I found that I'm able to identify kind of my strengths and weaknesses and what I need versus what I can give. And so that's been something over the past few years I really worked on and kind of something that I've shared in order to kind of bring that awareness to managers and other people trying to get into the industry with autism, is how you can meet your managers and your employers halfway. You're going to be one of the most productive employees on your team, but that may mean that the manager has to switch up their management style differently and understand that there's a learning curve from the social aspect,” said Roddie.

Roddie also says that having a neurodiverse workplace environment is really valuable. 

“Having that different point of view, you know, that, even if it's not a different technical skill set, it's a different way of approaching problems, like you're not going to get that from hiring the neurotypical people who think the same way,” said Roddie. 

Roddie is also working with Youth Code Jam, a group that hosts free events to introduce kids of all ages to coding. 

On Saturday, they’re putting on a low-sensory jam, one that’s quieter, smaller, and more intimate than the community-wide jams, to make it more accessible and comfortable for kids on the autism spectrum. 

“We want to make sure that we're really able to level the playing field and make it so that every kid sees the ability to code is something that's very accessible to them,” said Maia Donohue, who is on the Youth Code Jam Board of Directors. 

Roddie said there is an important part about the low-sensory Code Jam. 

“Being able to put [neurodiverse kids] in an environment where they feel comfortable and accepted and seeing like, ‘Okay, this is something I can do and enjoy and be comfortable in,’” she said.

For Rodie, the event is a special chance for her to show kids like her that their differences can be a wonderful asset. ​