Cracking the Code

April 1, 2015
Detail-oriented and technically skilled, young adults with autism are finding surprise careers in Hollywood

Inside the corner suite of an office building on Riverside Drive, a roomful of young men and women in their late teens and early twenties are drawing cartoons. Well, to put it more accurately (and geekily), they're creating simple computer animation through 2D Flash software. One digital sketch is of an underwater fight between a giant shark and a Jurassic plesiosaur. A tamer story across the room revolves around a family of cute kitties. Another series of animated bits shows a young devil trekking through hell en route to a rather intimidating job interview with Satan.

The images aren't Pixar material just yet, but if things go as planned for these first-year students at Exceptional Minds in Sherman Oaks, the rewards will be far greater. The vocational school teaches animation and visual effects skills exclusively to people autism spectrum disorder. The three-year course of study aims to harness the innate technical abilities and attention to detail that many on the spectrum possess and to prepare them for jobs in film and television.