April is Autism Acceptance Month. This is a starting point resource for employers to actively support and recognize individuals in their workforce who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as well as employees who have children with autism. Learn how your organization can recognize Autism Acceptance Month.
Autism Acceptance Month, alternatively referred to as Autism Awareness Month, recognizes individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and aims to increase societal understanding of the different ways in which individuals with ASD experience life. ASD is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects each individual differently, and it is most often recognized in early childhood.
You may have individuals with ASD employed in your organization, and others in your workforce may have children who have been diagnosed with autism. According to 2017 data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 5.4 million adults (2.2%) have ASD. In children, the number of ASD diagnoses has increased over the past couple of decades. In 2018, about one in 44 children had been diagnosed by the age of 8 — up from one in 150 in 2000.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, individuals with ASD may have difficulty communicating with other people, interacting socially, and understanding others’ actions or points of view. Exhibiting repetitive behaviors and showing a strong focus on a singular topic or hobby are common, as is becoming upset when routines are changed. Individuals with ASD often excel in areas such as music, art, math, and science and exhibit strong auditory and visual learning abilities and an exceptional memory for details.
What makes it a spectrum disorder is the variation in symptoms and their severity, which is different for each individual with ASD. While some individuals require great lifestyle modifications, others live relatively normal lives with only minor accommodations.
We’ve compiled a guide to help you understand the importance of Autism Acceptance Month and ideas on ways you can recognize it in your workplace.
Use the quick navigation links below to jump ahead to a specific topic:
- The History of Autism Acceptance Month
- Why Autism Acceptance Month Is Important
- How Autism Acceptance Month Is Traditionally Recognized
- Employee Considerations
- How to Recognize Autism Acceptance Month at Work
- Guest Speakers
- TED Talks and Documentaries to Watch
- Books to Read
- How Companies Are Celebrating Autism Acceptance Month
The History of Autism Acceptance Month
The origins of Autism Acceptance Month began with a week-long recognition called National Autistic Children’s Week, launched by the Autism Society of America in 1972. It evolved into the nationally celebrated Autism Awareness Month, which expanded the focus to understanding autism and how to create an inclusive society for all individuals with ASD, young and old. In 2021, the Autism Society suggested renaming it Autism Acceptance Month, acknowledging that beyond awareness is the acceptance of individuals with neurological and developmental differences and the commitment to developing the support needed to ensure an inclusive society for all. It continues to be referred to by both names. Globally, World Autism Month is also celebrated in April.
Also this month:
April 2 — World Autism Awareness Day
Why Autism Acceptance Month Is Important
Over the past decade, there has been an increased awareness of the differences, strengths, challenges, and needs of neurodivergent individuals in the workplace. The term neurodivergent includes ASD, Down syndrome, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, and other neurological conditions.
Gaining a better understanding of what you can do as an employer to support your neurodivergent employees, including those with ASD, can help them thrive in their careers. Developing opportunities for your workforce to learn from your neurodivergent employees, such as hosting and participating in events throughout the month of April that recognize Autism Acceptance Month, can help you create a more inclusive culture where individuals with ASD feel better understood, supported, and appreciated for the strengths they bring to your organization. Additionally, this support should extend to your employees who are parents or caretakers of children and adults with ASD, ensuring they’re aware of the resources and benefits your company offers.
How Autism Acceptance Month Is Traditionally Recognized
Autism Acceptance Month is traditionally recognized through educational storytelling, celebrating the differences, strengths, and experiences of individuals with ASD. The Autism Society’s #CelebrateDifferences campaign encourages the sharing of personal stories and promotes the acceptance and celebration of individuals’ differences.
The generally agreed upon Autism Acceptance Month color associated with awareness and advocacy initiatives is blue. A multi-colored puzzle, with blue, yellow, red, and (sometimes) green pieces, is commonly used to represent autism, though there has been controversy over the use of a puzzle or puzzle pieces as the symbol.
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Autism Acceptance Month Employee Considerations
Employers that have individuals with autism in their workforce should provide managers with resources and best practices so that they can learn how to properly support their employees’ needs and workstyles. If you haven’t yet created in-house guidance for your managers, a good starting point is Disability:IN’s Autism @ Work Playbook and Accessibility.com’s Beginner’s Guide to Supporting Employees with Autism. Advice in these resources includes alternatives to the traditional job interview to assess a job candidates’ skills, developing onboarding support materials with visual learning in mind, and designing a work environment where individuals with ASD can thrive.
It’s important to note that employees are not required to disclose that they have ASD. Respect your employees’ privacy but also create a work environment in which an employee feels comfortable speaking with you about their accommodations needs. If an employee with autism spectrum disorder volunteers to share their story with the company during Autism Acceptance Month, consider their comfort level for how they would like to do so, and be sure to place a spotlight on their unique set of individual strengths.
How to Recognize Autism Acceptance Month at Work
Host a training workshop. Bring in an outside consultant or have your DEI and HR teams partner to deliver a company-wide or manager-specific neurodiversity sensitivity training workshop. This can help to increase the understanding of and teach proper responses to common communications and social interactions. Enna, an organization that helps employers connect with neurodiverse talent, is among providers of neurodiversity training.
Partner with your employee resource groups (ERGs). Consider working with your neurodivergent ERG to host a panel conversation about living and working with ASD. Empower your employees with ASD or employees who have children with ASD to share their stories with their team members, if they’re comfortable doing so. If you don’t have a neurodivergent ERG, April is a great month to start building this type of support network for your neurodivergent workforce and parents and caretakers of neurodivergent individuals.
Craft internal communications for Autism Acceptance Month. If your employees with ASD or those who have children with ASD are more comfortable sharing their experiences in short videos or written Q&As, consider posting them on your company’s intranet, in internal email newsletters, or in an employee Slack channel. You can also use these channels to share facts about ASD and resources that your employees might find helpful as they learn how to become more inclusive and supportive of their fellow colleagues with ASD.
Support a nonprofit organization. Encourage your employees to donate to a nonprofit organization that promotes autism awareness and supports individuals with ASD. Up the ante with a company match for all donations raised throughout the month. Donations to the Autism Society go toward the organization’s national helpline, federal advocacy efforts, and program development. Your company’s local community might have its own support network that you can donate to or get involved with in other meaningful ways.
Invite a guest speaker. The Asperger/Autism Network (AANE) offers a speakers bureau as part of its training services. View biographies of speakers who have ASD, and inquire with the network about booking them to speak to your workforce. You can also find neurodiversity experts and authors through speakers bureaus such as All American Entertainment and SpeakerHub.
Guest speakers for Autism Acceptance Month:
- Dr. Temple Grandin: Dr. Grandin, an animal behaviorist who has autism, has done many speaking engagements on the topics of both animal behavior and autism. She’s written several books on life with autism, and among various television features about Grandin’s life includes a full-length HBO film titled “Temple Grandin.”
- Professor Stephen Shore: Professor Shore is an author and professor of special education at Adelphi University. He speaks about his life on the autism spectrum and best practices for matching support with individuals’ needs.
- Sue Ann Pien: Sue Ann Pien is an actress, director, and producer, who also has autism. She stars in the leading role of “As We See It,” an Amazon Original. In speaking engagements, she discusses intersectionality and autistic representation in film and television.
- Ryan Litchfield: Ryan Litchfield applies his own experiences navigating life with autism to his work as a life coach for adults with ASD. The topics he speaks on include employment and reasonable accommodations in the workplace for individuals with autism.
Choose a TED Talk or documentary to discuss. Recommend it at the start of the month and hold a panel discussion toward the end of the month.
Here are a few TED Talks to consider:
- Storytelling activist Rosie King on “How Autism Freed Me to Be Myself” (2014)
- Author Steve Silberman talks about “The Forgotten History of Autism” (2015)
- Geneticist Wendy Chung discusses “What We Know (and What We Don’t Know Yet)” about Autism (2014)
As well as a few documentaries:
- “In a Different Key” (2022; available on PBS)
- “Inside Our Autistic Minds” (2023; episodes available on BBC iPlayer)
- “Life, Animated” (2016; available on Amazon Prime and YouTube)
- “The Horse Boy” (2009; available on Apple TV)
- “The Reason I Jump” (2020; available on Netflix)
Choose a related book for your book club. If your company has an ongoing monthly book club, consider choosing a book that talks about autism spectrum disorder for April and plan a group discussion for the end of the month.
Books to Read for Autism Acceptance Month
- “Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism,” by Barry M. Prizant (2022)
- “In a Different Key: The Story of Autism,” by John Donvan and Caren Zucker (2017)
- “Following Ezra: What One Father Learned about Gumby, Otters, Autism, and Love From His Extraordinary Son,” by Tom Fields-Meyer (2011)
- “Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s,” by John Elder Robison (2008)
- “Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism,” by Dr. Temple Grandin (2006)
- “Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity,” Steve Silberman (2016)
How Companies Are Celebrating Autism Acceptance Month
- April — Knee Deep Brewing Company in Auburn, California, released its Perfect Fit IPA in recognition of Autism Acceptance Month. The brewery is donating a portion of the proceeds to The Michael Ziegler PRIDE Industries Foundation, an organization that provides coaching, training, and job placement for individuals with disabilities, and through which Knee Deep Brewing has found some of its employees.
- April — The Aventura Police in Florida are wearing police badges with an Autism Acceptance Month-inspired design, and a police vehicle is similarly painted in blue, yellow, red, and green puzzle pieces.
- April — At the IT and business consulting firm CGI, director Elizabeth “Beth” Whitmer shares in a company blog post about her experiences founding the Accessibility Champions Network at her company and identifying and understanding her own neurological differences as an adult.
- April 18-24 — St. Louis Community College is hosting various events throughout the month, including campus radio interviews during which autistic students and staff share their experiences (April 18 and April 24) and a virtual “Ask the Expert” session with Dr. Kerry Magro, a best-selling author and autistic professional speaker (April 20).
- April 14 — The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC) partnered to host a virtual event titled, “A Portrait of Autism: Artists and Their Works,” from 2:00-3:30 p.m. ET. The event features the work of four artists, and each artist discusses their experiences with autism and art.
Visit our DEI calendar for a complete list of holidays, events, and commemorations for DEI leaders to recognize throughout the year.