Celebrating the Dignity, Diversity, and Strengths of Autistic Individuals

Categories: ASD and DD, Adult-focused; ASD and DD, Child-focused

By Margaret Walsh, M.A., BCBA                                                               

[This column was published in the West Springfield Republican on April 18, 2024.]
April is Autism Acceptance Month, a time to celebrate and embrace the diversity and strengths of the millions of people in the autism community. 

On April 2nd, World Autism Acceptance Day, President Biden issued a proclamation that began with these words: “America was founded on the idea that all people are created equal and deserve to be treated equally throughout their lives. Today, we champion the equal rights and dignity of the millions of Americans on the autism spectrum, and we celebrate the immense contributions of all neurodiverse people, whose perspectives and experiences make America a richer nation.”

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex disorder that affects people in varying ways. Just like neurotypical individuals, autistic people have things that they do well and things that are difficult for them. It is important to acknowledge that every autistic person is a unique individual with different experiences, strengths, and challenges. Many autistic individuals fight every day to be seen as complete people who are worthy of support and encouragement, not people with a disability that needs to be “fixed.”

Some people with ASD may require significant help with language, relationships, organization, and basic daily living skills. Others may not need intensive support. Whatever level of assistance they require, these individuals should be involved in the decision-making process about what supports are necessary.

To continue to improve their lives, autistic people need to have their voices heard. Their life experience is invaluable and important when developing support systems that help them live their best possible lives. Those of us who care for and about them can help by taking the time to listen to what they are saying and encourage them to live their own lives without fear of being reduced to a stereotype that results in low expectations and stifles personal growth. 

If decisions are being made on how to support autistic people in the workplace, make sure the conversations include input from these individuals. Employers should ask them for their perspectives and opinions. By having honest discussions about creating a work environment that supports people with autism, it is very possible that the workplace will improve for everyone.

President Biden endorsed this idea in his World Autism Acceptance Day proclamation: “I call upon Americans to … learn more about experiences of autistic people from autistic people, and to build more welcoming and inclusive communities to support people with autism.”

We can all help people on the autism spectrum by learning how to advocate for services that provide them with opportunities to make progress in their lives in a way that makes sense to them. Support systems for autistic people should be multifaceted and individualized because no two people have the same desires and needs.

“Autistic people are individuals,” says Jeanette Purkis, an advocate for autistic people. “We are not all math geniuses, we don’t all like trains. I am hopeless with technology and much prefer painting. There is no ‘typical autistic.’ But I think we probably all like being respected and validated.”

This month is a great time to make a renewed commitment to support autistic individuals every single day by encouraging them to live as authentically as possible. To those who provide support or are close with a person with autism, try to see the person first and provide support that is congruent to their values and strengths.  

Margaret Walsh, M.A., BCBA, is the Director of Clinical Services for the May Center for Adults Services in Western Massachusetts. She can be contacted in West Springfield at 413-734-0300 (ext. 262) or at

May Institute is a nonprofit organization that is a national leader in the field of applied behavior analysis and evidence-based interventions, serving autistic individuals and individuals with other developmental disabilities, brain injury, neurobehavioral disorders, and other special needs. Founded nearly70 years ago, we provide a wide range of exceptional educational and rehabilitative services across the lifespan. For more information, call 800.778.7601 or visit