Maybe it's time to talk more about what people with autism can achieve, rather than dwell on their limitations. That thought came to mind as we watched Victor Fitchhorn learning how to code.
"He is not only understanding but deploying exercises and projects and developing things that are part of the curriculum and are part of his professional process," said Marcelo Ricigliano, the CEO of 4Geeks Academy, a coding bootcamp.
What is Victor learning?
Victor is 20 years old and autism has made him a young man of few words. He's not good at expressing his feelings and he mostly answers questions with simple responses, but don't confuse that with a lack of intelligence.
"He taught himself to read at three years old, amazing," said Victor's mom, Carmen Borsani.
Borsani says it's taken a lifetime of work to get Victor to his current level of functionality.
"We have been working hard for this, for that future, when I'm not here, and he can keep going on his own," Borsani said, choking back tears.
Mom persisted until 4Geeks Academy agreed to take on its first autistic student.
"You have to communicate in a different way," Ricigliano said.
The staff had to come up with new ways to teach the material to Victor. He gets one-on-one attention, and his course of study will be 16 weeks instead of the usual nine weeks, and it's paying off. Victor is on pace to becoming a software developer.
"It's gonna take time, it's not gonna be easy," acknowledged Borsani.
So is Victor a unique case or is his experience proof that young adults and teenagers with autism can learn this valuable skill?
"Maybe he can build something that is really important for someone like him, if he's given the chance, because he understands, he's a really smart guy," Ricigliano said. "He's about to become a front-end developer."
"I see a lot of potential and I think he's definitely hirable," said his teacher, Florencia Viera. "His only weakness is communication but he's very smart, resilient, he's great."
Everyone is being educated here: Victor's learning coding, the staff is figuring out how to teach him and future students who have autism, and now maybe the public will learn to throw away preconceptions and give every student a chance.
Victor's mom is confident that he's learning a skill which will make him independent.
"The day he's somewhere where he feels happy, where the company looks after him and loves him, I can go," Borsani said.