Smart Kids Need A Challenge

How Coding Helped This 11-Year-Old Focus

Recently, Alejandro Cáceres Arrieta, 11, took a family vacation from his home in Colombia to Orlando, Florida. The moment the family checked into the hotel, Alejandro grabbed the code to log onto the internet, ran to their room and logged into his Tekkie Uni coding class.

“Before he started his coding class, the first thing he’d do was look at the hotel pool or go out to eat or something,” says his father, Julio Cáceres Lora. “We arrived at the hotel at 8:30 and the class started at 8:35 Orlando time. He ran quickly, took out his briefcase, his computer, his headphones and logged into the class.”

That sort of determination to be in class on time is behavior Julio is thrilled to see in his son, who is a bright child and an eager learner, but who also struggles with emotional responses and self-discipline.

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A bright kid in need of a challenge

Alejandro attends the German School of Barranquilla, a private German International Baccalaureate school in his hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia.

He’s an excellent student — he plays piano, loves technology and is learning three languages. But because he is so smart and picks up new information quickly, Alejandro has an academic weakness: he doesn’t have to put in much effort to get a good grade. Alejandro also struggles behaviorally. He has had some trouble regulating his emotions and dealing with frustration.

Both Alejandro’s intelligence and his problems managing frustration mean that he’s often impatient when it comes to finding the solutions to problems in his schoolwork says his father.

“He’s a child with a fast mind, but many things are passed over, even many rules,” said Julio. “I told him one day, son, if you go 100 kilometers an hour in a car, you can reach your destination faster, but probably, going that fast, you’ll also miss the warning signs.”

Alejandro’s doctors have emphasized a need for activities that will help him develop self-discipline. He’s been practicing Taekwondo since he was a young child and that’s helped, says Julio. Tekkie Uni’s coding classes seemed like another activity that might help Alejandro slow down and focus.

Developing self-discipline in class

Julio found Tekkie Uni’s coding classes through an ad on his Instagram feed. It seemed like a good fit for Alejandro, who’d been involved with robotics at school and has an analytical mind, but who also needs to slow down and focus on the steps of an activity, rather than rushing to the end of a project. Julio had studied programming himself, back in the ‘90s, and he knows how important it is to be careful when coding.

Alejandro was excited about coding when his dad asked him about Tekkie Uni, but Julio set up a few ground rules.

Tekkie Uni offers two test classes before a student is a permanent student. Julio told him he’d have those two classes to make up his mind. But if he chose to move forward with the classes, he’d have to commit and see the course through to the end.

“I told him, you have to be disciplined, classes will be every Thursday and wherever you are I want you to attend class and concentrate,” he said.

By the second class, Alejandro was hooked. How did Julio know? Because Alejandro’s second class was the one that took place during the family’s vacation to Florida.

“I remember that day was June 13,” says Julio. “The first thing he did was get connected. It caught my attention, so much so that I took a picture and put it on my Instagram so I can remember it.”

Learning to focus through coding

“When my father told me [about Tekkie] I said yes because I really like everything that has to do with systems, computers and I wanted to learn something else,” said Alejandro.

One of his favorite things about his classes is getting to know the other students, he says.

“Today he said, Papi, how cool is that I have friends from El Salvador, a friend from Mexico, I have one from the United States, and there is another Colombian,” said Julio. “It’s so interesting that before, his classmates were kids who lived in our neighborhood, but this class gives Alejandro a chance to interact with children from other countries, other cultures.”

Alejandro has worked on six projects in his time with Tekkie, and he’s been proud to share those projects with his parents. Julio’s watched with pride as his son has started focusing on the details of coding — when code doesn’t work, Alejandro has started to scan for errors, realizing that if he misses a step or misplaces a comma, an app won’t work.

“It has been quite an experience for Alejandro, for my wife too, because my wife is impressed with how attentive Alejandro is, and how this course is benefitting him,” said Julio.

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