Brain Health


Coding Autism

By Coding Autism: Navigating Adults with ASD to Tech Employment

Team Leader

Oliver Thornton

Basic Information

Our Solution

Coding Autism

Our solution's stage of development:


Our solution:

Coding Autism's goal is to empower those on the autism spectrum to improve their overall brain health, mental well-being, and mental resilience through education and employment in the technology industry. We aim to change the dialogue regarding brain health by addressing neurodiversity and the stigma that surrounds it.

Our pitch:

The problem:

1) Addressing the stigma that surrounds neurodiversity and defining better brain health and mental fitness for all. Confronting the medical model and defining other paradigms.

2) The lack of educational/training resources available for people with autism after high school due to societal stigma.

3) The large number of unfilled technology positions due to a lack of talent/qualified applicants that don’t consider people on the Autism Spectrum as qualified applicants.

4) The 80% unemployment rate of adults with autism. Being a contributing citizen can provide a sense of purpose and belonging impacting one's brain and mental health.

Why our solution will solve the problem:

Diversity is THE hot topic in right now. In speaking of autism as a natural aspect of human diversity, neurodiversity identifies judgmental social attitudes at the root of the problematization of autism.  Moving from the medical model which represented “deficits and disability” to the neurodiversity and social model which represented things as "differences" or "variations" play a huge role on the brain wellness and mental fitness of the ASD population. The change in view points/perspectives and wording bring positivity to their identity and reduces depression and mental illness within the ASD population.

Target Outcomes

Our target outcomes:

Coding Autism's solution focuses toward and benefits adults with autism. As the autistic population in the US increases, we aim to change the dialogue around stigma and brain and mental health. 

In addition, we provide meaningful education and employment. We are deploying our first coding bootcamp in the beginning of 2018. We will train 15-20 adults with autism in web development, quality assurance, and cybersecurity. Our program differentiates itself through our social skills program which includes career coaching, to health/wellness, to financial responsibility. We plan to expand to other cities with online offerings.

How we will measure our progress:

  • Outcome: 1500 adults with autism trained through Coding Autism by 2020.
    Measurement Plan: By tracking the amount of adults on the autism spectrum that complete our autism-specialized coding program
  • Outcome: 90% employment rate within 6 months of graduating and completing the Coding Autism Program,
    Measurement Plan: By tracking our Coding Autism graduates and where they are employed. Tracking companies that are joining the neurodiversity initiative.
  • Outcome: 75-80% of our graduates are able to maintain their role at their current employment after Coding Autism.
    Measurement Plan: Working closely with graduates and the HR departments at companies to monitor attrition rates. Monitoring how many companies are adapting their management, recruitment, and promotion policies to adapt to neurodiverse employees.

The populations we will benefit initially:

  • Adult
  • High-income economies
  • Bachelors
  • Non-binary
  • Urban

The regions we will benefit initially:

  • US and Canada

The technologies we employ:

  • Consumer-facing software (mobile applications, cloud services)
  • Robotics
  • Something so new it doesn’t have a name

Why our solution is unique:

Coding Autism's solution is innovative because we aim to change the conversation about neurodiversity and brain and mental health. In addition we aim to accelerate those of working age and ability on the Autism Spectrum. We are taking on the messaging the world is receiving about neurodiversity and championing our ASD brothers and sisters. Our autism-specialized focus allows us to work with the strengths of adults with autism giving them a career and potentially purpose and meaning in their life.

Why our solution is human-centered:

Coding Autism's solution is entirely human-centered. By focusing on autism, we are able to create innovative solutions that can make a measurable difference in employment rates. We also advocate on behalf of the autistic population to employers, and build partnerships with companies that already have autism hiring initiatives (such as Microsoft, SAP, and HP).

How people will access our solution:

We are deploying our first offering as a in-person coding bootcamp in the LA area that will train 15-20 autistic adults. Our goal is to expand to the Bay Area and other tech hubs after securing a stronghold in Los Angeles. We are also developing an online version of our program. Our price point is comparable to similar coding bootcamps like General Assembly. We aim to subsidize tuition through regional centers, the Department of Rehabilitation, and financing options.

Technology-Readiness Level:

1-3 (Formulation)
Business Plan

Our organization:


How we will sustain our team financially:

Through our research phase, both co-founders had full time jobs that were helping us pay our bills. During this time, we both saved enough money for 2 years so we can turn our entire focus to growing Coding Autism. 

In addition, we raised $52,855 through our crowdfunding campaign and secured roughly $52,500 in private investment. This gives a solid budget to start recruiting and designing.

If all goes well, we should be profitable after our 3rd cohort. We can make back our initial investment by mid-2018. We will use the additional revenue to hire employees and create more program offerings.

The factors limiting our success:

A limiting factor could be if a larger company decided to build out their own autism-specialized coding bootcamp. Despite this, we are confident that the complexities that come with building an autism-specialized business will keep up the barrier to entry for competitors. The success of our solution comes down to successful implementation, industry differentiation, and the revenues and investment funding that we receive.

How long we have been working on our solution:

1 year

How long it will take to develop a pilot:

3-6 months

How long it will take to scale beyond our pilot:

3-6 months

Our expected annual budget:


How much of our budget we've secured to date:


Partnership Needs

We're looking for partners in these fields:

  • Income Generation
  • Future of Work
  • Online Learning
  • Post-secondary Education
  • STEM Education

Why we're applying to Solve:

Our goal is beyond improving the quality of life for people with Autism through education and employment. Our goal is to also start shifting the conversation worldwide Autism and neurodiversity as being "different" and "talented" instead of "disabled". As a growing start-up, we look forward to having open dialogue with the "change leaders" from the  MIT Solve community and sharing expertise, mentorship, and learning and hearing from a community of leaders. It’s an opportunity to bring leaders to share learnings with their communities and organizations. "Alone we can't do much, but together we can change the world." - Bill Starkey

Our current partners:

Coding Autism's current partners are MindSpark, Platinum Bay Technologies, Cybrary, ULTRA Testing, BuzzHero, Aspiritech, Autism Speaks, WAM Consulting and toot. We are also building partnership relations with Microsoft, SAP, HP, EY, LinkedIn, Compass, and many more technology companies.

Solution Team

  • Beth Brennan, Ph.D. Associate Dean, California Lutheran University
  • Andrea Vu Chasko Director of Talent & Organizational Development, Coding Autism
  • William Faidi Advisor, Coding Autism
  • AG AG
    Alon Goren Advisor, Coding Autism
  • Ward MacDonald Director of Executive Development and Coaching , Coding Autism
  • Greg Monterrosa Advisor, Coding Autism
  • Mike Panesis Executive Director, Center for Entrepreneurship, California Lutheran University
  • Edlyn Peña 5228145 Associate Professor and C0-Director of Autism and Communication Center, California Lutheran University
  • Oliver Thornton CEO and Founder, Coding Autism
  • Austen Weinhart Coding Autism
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