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5 Core Values for Autistic Acceptance in the Classroom

Teacher in front of class, pointing to student raising their hand

At a Glance

Covering 5 interconnected values to be cognizant of as you promote autism acceptance in your classroom.

Highlighting the need for acceptance of Autistic differences and behaviors without enforcing conformity to Allistic norms.

Stressing the importance of Autistic individuals' agency over their lives and ensuring they receive necessary support and accommodations for equal access to opportunities.

Welcome to the start of our Autism Acceptance in the Classroom Series, where we will be talking about ways to promote Autistic acceptance in your classroom both as part of Autism Acceptance Month and as a continuous year-round project. 

Because there are so many different approaches to autism acceptance and because autism acceptance is such an important material goal for Autistic people, we want to start this series with some foundational principles that can serve as guideposts for a whole range of potential activities and resource levels.

Our hope is that these foundational principles can also serve as a reminder of the most important practical components of autism acceptance, and that internalizing them can help with a whole range of decisions related to supporting Autistic people as we work together to make acceptance a reality.

1. Autistic people are still fighting for social equality.

One stark difference that can often come up between Allistic-led organizations and Autistic self-advocates in the discussion of autism acceptance is that organizations will often focus on autism as a condition or abstract concept while Autistic people will focus on the material struggles they face in a society that is not built for them. 

In a perfect world we would hear what self-advocates are saying and make those points a priority, but in practice Autism Acceptance Month is a stressful time for many Autistic people who feel both scrutinized and like their voice isn’t really heard. In that spirit, part of autism acceptance is acknowledging that Autistic people are not always treated fairly by society and that promoting autism acceptance is about more than just how we as individuals feel about autism or Autistic people.

2. Part of accepting Autistic people is accepting Autistic differences.

In a similar vein, one common challenge of true autism acceptance is when people declare that they accept Autistic individuals but then turn around and police behaviors they view as “abnormal.” Another common rhetorical theme among Autistic self-advocates is asking Allistic people to stop making them conform to Allistic social norms. One particular quote stands out from the linked post: “our Autistic personhood is just as valid as your neurotypical personhood.” It is all too easy for many Allistic people to assume that an Autistic person’s life would improve if only they could better adhere to Allistic norms. 

While it might be true that the person in question would face less discrimination, it is also important to bear in mind that 1) facing less discrimination does not necessarily negate the excess time, energy, and emotional toll of being made to conform and 2) a better way to prevent discrimination is to get people to stop discriminating. Whether or not some Autistic people choose to conform in some cases, each Autistic individual is the best judge of the quality of their own life and what contributes to it. Which brings us to our next core value…

3. Autistic people deserve agency over their own lives and goals.

One reason we stress the importance of Autistic self-advocacy here at AGU is because, as we alluded to in the previous section, it is all too common for Allistic individuals to make assumptions about what is best for an Autistic person they are supporting and make those decisions on their behalf. 

We want to be clear - there are of course some cases where the best way to support an Autistic person is to manage some decision making. Where problems arise is when we fail to treat personal agency as a top priority and act as managers rather than teammates. 

Regardless of an individual’s support needs, it is important to make an active effort to ensure that the opportunity for choice is always there and that when we are offering support or taking over a decision making process it is because the Autistic person in question agrees that is the arrangement they are most comfortable with. That is how we strike a balance between this principle and the next…

4. Autistic people deserve support and/or accommodation when they need it.

One unfortunate and frustrating challenge that many Autistic people face is that they will have some decisions made for them in the name of offering support while not receiving the types of supports and accommodations that they actually request. 

One goal of fostering autism acceptance should be to work toward the opposite outcome: offering Autistic people agency over their own choices whenever possible but also being ready to offer support and accommodations when it is requested. 

The necessity of this focus is a byproduct of the reality that society is not built with Autistic people in mind, and that this will sometimes create barriers that either require considerable extra effort or in some cases might be impossible to overcome without assistance. 

In that sense, the support we offer is not running counter to personal agency, it is part of what makes genuine personal agency possible. We want to offer help for overcoming those barriers as often as possible for a very important reason…

5. Autistic people deserve equal access to opportunities.

As we mentioned in the previous section, living in a society that does not accommodate your differences can lead to being cut off from resources and opportunities that might otherwise be accessible. When it comes to Autistic adults, a classic example is looking for employment opportunities.

While it is difficult to pin down a precise number for a variety of reasons*, some sources cite an Autistic unemployment rate as high as 85% and finding employment is generally understood as a common struggle among Autistic adults.

When we talk about autism acceptance, one important component should always be treating equal access to opportunity as a fundamental value so that when we see examples of unequal access we treat it as an imperative to improve the situation and not just to ask Autistic people to “improve” themselves.

*While discussing the methodology behind finding an accurate autistic employment rate could be its own article, one challenge to getting an accurate number is that not all autistic people disclose that they are autistic when seeking work and not all autistic people are officially diagnosed, so even the numbers we do have are not likely to be an accurate reflection of the whole autistic population.


We hope these core values will help to serve as a guidepost for building autism acceptance in your classroom not just in April but year round, and that it can help inform what types of activities and topics you might wish to include in such discussions. 

Next week we will talk a little more about building autism acceptance in the classroom and in following weeks we will discuss some potential activities to use both as part of Autism Acceptance Month and as part of a more general curriculum. We want to emphasize that these core values are not about criticizing or nitpicking a specific education approach but rather to offer a foundation on which we can base our decisions when showing our support. 

If there is a topic you’d like to see us cover more in depth or another core value you think we should be including on our list then we would love to hear from you! Just drop us a line at and we will be back next week to talk about building acceptance in the classroom

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