7 Strategies to Support Neurodiverse and Autistic Students


I am not neurodiverse. I am not autistic. This information is being shared from the viewpoint of someone who works in the field and support students with autism spectrum disorder. It is important to listen to autistic students & individuals and respect their requests and the viewpoints of each family you work with.

In this blog, I will be using identity-first language. Identity-first language involves referring to individuals by placing the disability or condition before the person, such as “autistic person” rather than “person with autism.” While identity-first language is embraced by many individuals as a way to affirm their identity and foster a sense of community, it’s essential to recognize that language preferences can vary among individuals and communities. 

autistic students

You should ask the individual what their preference is before assuming. Some individuals and organizations may prefer person-first language, which emphasizes the individual before the disability. When discussing or writing about individuals with disabilities, it’s important to be respectful and considerate of their preferences. It’s always best to ask individuals how they prefer to be referred to and to use language that respects their autonomy, dignity, and self-identification.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism Spectrum Disorder ASD is a lifelong developmental condition that impacts social interaction, communication, and behavior. It affects individuals differently, hence the term “spectrum,” encompassing a wide range of challenges and strengths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 36 children in the United States are diagnosed with autism. It is more prevalent in boys than in girls. 4 in every 100 boys receive a diagnosis of autism, whereas for girls, it is 1 in every 100 girls. Regardless, we need to support our autistic students.

How does Neurodiversity play into this?

Despite the challenges that autism may present, it’s crucial to recognize the neurodiversity movement, which celebrates the diverse ways in which brains function. The movement emphasizes the value of neurological differences and advocates for the acceptance and inclusion of individuals with autism and other neurological variations. Instead of viewing autism as a disorder to be fixed or cured, the neurodiversity perspective reframes it as a natural variation of human diversity. Every brain is different and we should embrace each unique  individual.

Embracing neurodiversity involves recognizing and valuing the unique strengths and abilities of autistic students. Autistic individuals often possess exceptional talents in areas such as pattern recognition, attention to detail, and creative thinking. By embracing these differences, society can create more inclusive environments where all individuals can thrive.

What about autistic students?

When it comes to supporting autistic students, educators play a crucial role in creating a supportive and inclusive learning environment. Here are some best practices for supporting autistic students:

  1. Individualized Support: Recognize that autistic students are unique and may require individualized support. Collaborate with the student, their family, and any support professionals to develop a personalized education plan that addresses their specific needs and strengths.
  2. Sensory Considerations: Many autistic students have sensory sensitivities or preferences. Be mindful of the sensory environment in the classroom, such as lighting, noise levels, and classroom layout. Provide sensory accommodations, such as noise-canceling headphones, fidget tools, or a quiet space for students to decompress safely when needed.
  3. Visual Supports: Utilize visual supports, such as visual schedules, visual timers, and visual cues, to help autistic students understand routines, transitions, and expectations. Visual supports can enhance communication, reduce anxiety, and promote independence.
  4. Clear Communication: Use clear and concise language when communicating with autistic students. Be explicit about expectations, rules, and instructions. Offer opportunities for students to ask questions and seek clarification. Visuals can also be a helpful tool in communication.
  5. Positive Reinforcement: Recognize and celebrate the achievements and efforts of autistic students. Provide positive reinforcement, praise, and encouragement to build confidence and motivation. Positive reinforcement also creates positive bonds between adults and children. 
  6. Social Skills Instruction: Offer targeted instruction and support in social skills development. Teach specific social skills, such as turn-taking, sharing, and initiating conversations, through structured lessons, role-playing, and modeling.
  7. Promote Self-Advocacy: Empower autistic students to advocate for their needs and preferences. Encourage self-awareness and self-expression, and provide opportunities for students to voice their opinions, preferences, and concerns. Body autonomy is such a crucial component of supporting their advocacy. 


In conclusion, supporting autistic students requires a holistic and inclusive approach that values neurodiversity and embraces differences. By understanding the unique strengths and challenges of autistic students and implementing best practices in education, educators can create a learning environment where all autistic students can thrive and reach their full potential.

Read more about disabilities or autistic students needs:

An Autistic Adult’s Journey


Visual Schedules for an Autism Classroom

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