Tech Kids Unlimited is on a mission to empower neurodiverse students’ lives through computer science and technology skills. A NYC-based not-for-profit educational organization, TKU inspires digital natives with disabilities to create, develop, and share the tools of technology in a supportive and nurturing individualized environment. By addressing gaps in access to accessible educational experiences with technology, TKU strives to change the paradigm for education and employment for neurodiverse students.
NYU Tandon School of Engineering is our premier partner where we hold most of our workshops and work with many NYU graduate and undergraduate students as our staff members. NYU is part of the Ability Project.
Tech Kids Unlimited’s approach to social and emotional learning (SEL) is grounded in recent research suggesting that authentic practice (e.g. observing and participating in organic interactions), rather than deliberate instruction (e.g. lessons that explicitly teach social norms), may be the most effective strategy to foster social skill development (Bottema-Beutel, Park and Kim, 2017). In this way, TKU workshops are infused with SEL opportunities through a combination of strategic lesson planning and staff training.
During lesson planning, Tech Teachers complete a curriculum template that includes a checklist of SEL benchmarks to incorporate into each day of instruction. Benchmarks are separated into four categories derived from the CASEL SEL Core Competencies: goal setting and planning, group and pair work, sharing and presenting, and reflection (CASEL, 2017). Examples of foundational SEL skills practiced in workshops include:
In addition to the SEL benchmarks in the curriculum, TKU classroom staff are trained to model positive social interactions (greeting students, asking students about their interests) and self-management skills (“It makes me frustrated when a website loads slowly, too. Let’s take a deep breath.”). Self-advocacy skills are built into workshop procedures. For instance, students are directed to communicate their needs (ask for a break, headphones, to use the bathroom) and staff are advised to touch students’ computers as little as possible to encourage perseverance.