Ananth's story of positivity - Waltzing his way into the creative world of Coding

2nd December 2020

Ananth is a bright and affectionate young man of 23 years. He is a determined and persevering person who loves people. He was in his teens when he became aware that he is on the Autism spectrum. Contrary to what one would expect, the discovery of being neurodiverse brought him great relief and a whole new way of defining himself. He became aware that he processed information differently and learned differently. He became mindful not only of the limitations in the social and communication domains but also of the countless strengths and assets that come as part of being in the spectrum. A formal diagnosis gave him and us as a family, a way to make sense of his life experiences. We were now able to engage him in the right learning conditions and help him navigate through different environments keeping in mind his strengths and challenges.

Though he was brought up in US, Ananth loves India. His interest in Indian culture manifested as a passion for Bharatanatyam. He has been training in the dance form for 8 years under Kalakshetra graduates Guru Harija Sivakumar and Prof Mohanan and had long dreamed of doing his Arangetram (a debut on-stage performance following years of training) in India. When he got an opportunity to do his diploma in Hospital Documentation and Medical Records at Dr. Kamakshi Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, doing his Arangetram in India became finally feasible. It is here that through a friend, we discovered Creative Coding with HashHackCode, which is making a significant difference in our lives.

As soon as I had my first conversation with Manu Sekar, founder, and CEO of HHC, I sensed that the HHC approach would benefit Ananth. The immersive and incremental approach where coding concepts and skills are introduced gradually and continuously reinforced, is an approach that works well for Ananth. Sure enough, Ananth settled down into HHC lessons quickly.

Since he was homeschooled from Kindergarten, Ananth and I have evolved ways of learning together. In addition to teaching Ananth academics and other skills, we attended entrepreneurship for teens and young adults with Autism and related disabilities together. While Ananth is now past homeschool, our experiences throughout his school years have set the stage for us to continue learning together. Ananth loves patterns and is a visual thinker. He has auditory processing challenges and we have experimented with numerous visual thinking tools and approaches over the years. Animations learnt through Creative Coding with HHC, are a new addition to our visual thinking and communication repertoire. Creative Coding has reinforced Ananth's digital expression and visual thinking. One of the key moments of our HHC experience was in Level 2. As Ananth was practicing transitions, he started comparing slow, medium, and fast transitions in CSS with life transitions. Ananth's analogy set many projects in motion. It is the moment when we started exploring our own way of engaging HHC lessons.

HHC didn't just benefit Ananth alone. During our first session, Manu suggested that I observe the classes, as a parent. Since we have been encouraging Ananth to learn more by himself, I was not sure whether I should be part of the learning process or not. But given Manu's invitation, I decided to observe the classes. Sometimes I continue with my work while getting a general sense of what is being taught in a particular lesson. Often, I walk away with ideas for enhancing the visual communication of my work through animations. While Ananth and I are attending the same lesson, what we learn is different. As a co-learner, I too could use animations to portray my LIFESMART (Project management through Learning, Interest, Family, and Engagement of society) work in a simple and clear way. I am seeing possibilities for using designs from lessons to practice visual thinking, project mapping, communication, and storytelling. The lessons give me ideas of how to build animations for presenting my work.

When Ananth learned about Autism, he also started his journey of being an advocate for others with Autism and related challenges. Models like HashHackCode are noteworthy for their efforts to work with families in the learning process. We intend to evolve Ananth's advocacy role by encouraging him to be an ambassador for organizations like HHC. We have enjoyed our HHC journey and are grateful to Manu Sekar and the HHC team for the well-designed lessons as well as the opportunities for engagement. We look forward to continuing learning coding with HHC as part of our LIFESMART journey!