Technology program for people with autism receives $20,000 grant

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COLUMBIA -  A program that helps people with autism build technology and coding skills is getting a $20,000 grant.

The new funding for EnCircle Technologies comes from Autism Speaks and GameStop.

The director of EnCircle Technologies, Teri Walden, said she hopes the grant helps students find jobs with their coding skills.

"It will provide some more opportunity for them to come in and learn coding," Walden said. "It will help with the cost of that program and it will go into some deeper types of training applications in order to get the skills they need for jobs."

EnCircle Technologies teamed up with Woodhaven Learning Center in August 2018 and helps young adults with autism gain technology and computer skills and find employment in Missouri.

"A lot of individuals with autism love computers, not all of them of course, they are all individuals," Walden said. "We want to help them navigate those interests into job skills."

EnCircle offers coding, Microsoft, social skills, and game development classes. 

Ninety percent of students who attend EnCircle find employment, Walden said.

One of those students was Kyle Boffa, who is now an employee at Encircle. He said he believes the grant money helps shine a light on adults with autism looking for jobs. 

"Adults with autism have some difficulty finding careers that fit their special needs or special abilities, and they just need a bit of awareness, a bit of 'hey I'm here,'" Boffa said. 

Nancy Foote, who has a son with autism, said the program has been a "lifesaver" for their her son Nathan and their family.

"He was struggling after college to find a job and EnCircle has provided him the confidence and the tools to use in finding a job," she said.