Youth Code Jam Seeks to Inspire Teens with Autism by Getting them Excited about Programming

Interacting with other kids may be challenging for teens with high functioning autism and Asperger’s, but interacting with a computer is a skill many take to like a fish to water. For students like this, school can be an uncomfortable environment. In fact, more than 50 percent of teens with autism never attend college and can’t find a job within two years of graduating.

San Antonio Youth Code Jam, San Antonio’s largest coding event for kids and their parents, and the Monarch Academy hope to change all that. On May 16, the Youth Code Jam team of volunteers will host a special, low sensory event at Café Commerce designed just for teens with high functioning autism and Asperger’s.
“I noticed some of our kids having a hard time at our flagship event last year,” said Debi Pfitzenmaier, founder of the San Antonio Youth Code Jam. “With more than 400 people moving in and around the rooms at Rackspace, it was just too much. At that point, I decided I wanted to do something just for kids on the spectrum. When the Monarch Academy approached me, we just jumped in with both feet. It’s the right thing to do.”
The Youth Code Jam – which is sponsored by Rackspace, Conceptual Mindworks and others operates in a plug and play environment with a variety of hands-on stations, where teens can sit down and learn any number of programming languages from a volunteer mentor. A key element of the Youth Code Jam is the presence of the parents, elbow to elbow with their kids, connecting over digital technologies. 
Microsoft and other companies have publicly articulated their desire recently to recruit individuals on the autism spectrum. Many carry a unique ability to hyper-focus on the task at hand with super sonic logic skills – all important talents in a tech environment. “These kids soar in the worlds of math, code and complex systems,” says Pfitzenmaier. “If we can spark their interest, they will master the material. And, in doing so, we open up the doors to a potential career in technology.”
The flagship Youth Code Jam for all kids (neurotypical and not) will be held Saturday, September 26 at Rackspace Global Headquarters.

For more information about attending or volunteering at an upcoming San Antonio Youth Code Jam or to find out how you can sponsor a group of students, visit or contact Debi Pfitzenmaier at, 210-669-6911.