Are you a BCBA or an RBT? Join The New Golden Steps ABA Fellowship Program
See Open Roles
We do not have a commercial relationship with any of these companies and have not otherwise been endorsed by, are not affiliated with, and do not intend to suggest a connection to, any of the companies listed on the page.

Is Autism Considered Special Needs?

If you're a parent or caregiver of a child with autism, you may be wondering if autism is considered a special need. The answer is yes, autism is considered a special need.

Understanding Autism

To gain a comprehensive understanding of autism, it is important to explore what autism is, the common characteristics associated with it, and the concept of the autism spectrum.

What is Autism?

Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. It is characterized by a range of challenges, including difficulties in social communication, repetitive behaviors, and restricted interests. Autism is a lifelong condition that typically appears in early childhood, and its impact can vary greatly from person to person.

Common Characteristics of Autism

Individuals with autism may exhibit a variety of characteristics that are commonly associated with the condition. These characteristics can manifest in different ways and to varying degrees. Some of the common characteristics of autism include:

  • Challenges in social interaction: People with autism may struggle with understanding and responding to social cues, making eye contact, and engaging in reciprocal conversations.
  • Communication difficulties: Individuals with autism may experience challenges in verbal and nonverbal communication. This can range from delayed speech development to difficulty understanding and using gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice.
  • Repetitive behaviors and routines: Many individuals with autism find comfort in routines and may engage in repetitive behaviors such as hand-flapping, rocking back and forth, or lining up objects.
  • Sensory sensitivities: People with autism may have heightened or reduced sensitivity to sensory stimuli, such as sounds, lights, textures, or smells. This can lead to sensory overload or aversion to certain stimuli.
  • Special interests: Individuals with autism often have intense interests in specific topics or activities. They may display in-depth knowledge and focus on these interests.

The Spectrum of Autism

Autism is often referred to as a spectrum disorder because it encompasses a wide range of characteristics and abilities. The autism spectrum reflects the idea that individuals with autism can experience different levels of impairment and strengths. It recognizes that each person with autism is unique and may require different types and levels of support.

The autism spectrum ranges from individuals with high-functioning autism, who may have average or above-average intellectual abilities and milder challenges in social communication, to those with more significant impairments who may require substantial support in daily living skills and communication.

Understanding the complexities of autism and the unique experiences of individuals within the spectrum is essential for promoting acceptance, providing appropriate support, and fostering inclusive environments for people with autism.

man carrying baby near the ocean

Special Needs and Autism

Understanding the relationship between autism and special needs is important for individuals and their families seeking support and resources. In this section, we will define special needs and explore whether autism is considered a special need.

Defining Special Needs

Special needs refer to the specific requirements and assistance that individuals with disabilities or challenges may require to fully participate in daily life, education, and social activities. These needs can encompass a wide range of conditions, including physical, cognitive, emotional, or behavioral disabilities.

Special needs can manifest in various ways, and the level of support required differs from person to person. It is important to recognize that each individual's needs are unique, and tailored support should be provided accordingly.

Is Autism Considered Special Needs?

Yes, autism is generally considered to be a special need. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects social interaction, communication, and behavior. Individuals with autism often require additional support and accommodations to navigate various aspects of life.

While autism falls under the spectrum, which means there is a wide range of abilities and challenges within the autistic community, many individuals with autism benefit from specialized education, therapies, and interventions tailored to their specific needs.

The level of support required by individuals with autism can vary significantly depending on the severity of their symptoms and their individual strengths and challenges. Some individuals may require more intensive support, such as individualized education programs (IEPs) or therapy services, while others may require less support and can thrive with accommodations and understanding from their environment.

It is important to note that considering autism as a special need does not diminish the unique strengths and abilities individuals with autism possess. Rather, it acknowledges the need for additional support and resources to help individuals with autism reach their full potential and participate fully in society.

Understanding that autism is considered a special need can help individuals and their families access the necessary support, resources, and accommodations to help them thrive and lead fulfilling lives.

Support for Individuals with Autism

For individuals with autism, accessing appropriate support is crucial in helping them thrive and reach their full potential. There are various avenues of support available, including individualized education programs (IEPs), therapies and interventions, and access to support and resources.

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are tailored education plans designed to meet the unique needs of students with autism. These programs outline specific goals, accommodations, and support services for the individual. IEPs are created collaboratively with input from educators, parents or guardians, and other professionals involved in the individual's education.

IEPs typically include:

  1. Goals: Specific objectives for the student to achieve within a certain timeframe. These goals may focus on areas such as communication, social skills, academic progress, and behavior management.
  2. Accommodations: Adjustments made to the learning environment or teaching methods to support the individual's needs. This may include modifications to assignments, additional assistance, or specialized equipment.
  3. Support Services: Additional services provided to support the student's educational journey. This can include speech therapy, occupational therapy, counseling, or the assistance of a paraprofessional.

By implementing IEPs, educators can provide targeted support to individuals with autism, ensuring that their educational experience is adapted to their unique strengths and challenges.

Therapies and Interventions

Therapies and interventions play a vital role in supporting individuals with autism by addressing their specific needs and enhancing their overall development. Some commonly utilized therapies and interventions include:

  1. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): ABA therapy focuses on modifying behavior by using positive reinforcement techniques. It aims to teach and reinforce desired behaviors while reducing challenging behaviors.
  2. Speech and Language Therapy: Speech and language therapy helps individuals with autism improve their communication skills, including verbal and non-verbal communication, articulation, and social interaction.
  3. Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapy assists individuals in developing and improving their fine motor skills, sensory integration, self-care skills, and overall independence in daily activities.
  4. Social Skills Training: This type of therapy focuses on teaching individuals with autism the social skills necessary for effective communication, building relationships, and navigating social situations.

Accessing Support and Resources

Accessing support and resources is essential for individuals with autism and their families. Various organizations, government agencies, and community-based initiatives offer a range of services and resources. These may include:

  1. Autism Support Groups: Support groups provide a platform for individuals with autism and their families to connect with others facing similar challenges. These groups offer emotional support, share information, and provide a sense of community.
  2. Government Programs: Government programs and agencies may offer financial assistance, healthcare coverage, educational support, and vocational training opportunities for individuals with autism.
  3. Community Resources: Local community organizations often provide workshops, seminars, and recreational activities designed to support individuals with autism. These resources can help individuals and their families access information, build networks, and participate in inclusive community events.

By accessing these support systems and resources, individuals with autism can receive the assistance they need to navigate various aspects of their lives and achieve their full potential.

It is important to remember that support for individuals with autism should be individualized, taking into account their unique strengths, needs, and goals. Working collaboratively with educators, therapists, and community organizations can ensure a comprehensive and holistic approach to supporting individuals with autism.

Advocacy for Autism

Advocacy plays a crucial role in promoting understanding, acceptance, and empowerment for individuals with autism. By advocating for autism, we can work towards creating an inclusive society that recognizes the unique strengths and challenges of individuals on the autism spectrum. Here are three key aspects of autism advocacy:

Promoting Inclusion and Acceptance

Promoting inclusion and acceptance is a fundamental aspect of autism advocacy. It involves creating environments that embrace neurodiversity and provide equal opportunities for individuals with autism to thrive. This includes advocating for inclusive education, employment, and community settings where individuals with autism are valued for their individual strengths and contributions.

Raising awareness about autism and dispelling myths and misconceptions is essential for fostering acceptance. By promoting understanding and empathy, we can create a society that embraces and celebrates the diversity of individuals with autism.

Raising Awareness and Understanding

Raising awareness and understanding about autism is another important goal of advocacy. This involves educating the public about autism, its characteristics, and the challenges faced by individuals on the spectrum. By providing accurate information, we can combat stigma and facilitate a more inclusive society.

To raise awareness effectively, it is crucial to engage in various initiatives such as public campaigns, workshops, and educational programs. These efforts can help dispel stereotypes, promote acceptance, and encourage individuals to become allies in advocating for the rights and well-being of people with autism.

Empowering Individuals with Autism

Empowering individuals with autism is a central focus of autism advocacy. It involves ensuring that individuals on the spectrum have access to the support, resources, and opportunities they need to reach their full potential. This may include advocating for person-centered planning, self-advocacy skills, and promoting independent living.

Empowerment also involves promoting the rights of individuals with autism and advocating for policies that protect their interests. By empowering individuals with autism to have a voice in decision-making processes, we can help them become active participants in society and advocates for their own needs.

By actively engaging in advocacy efforts, we can collectively work towards a more inclusive and supportive society for individuals with autism. Promoting inclusion and acceptance, raising awareness and understanding, and empowering individuals with autism are essential steps in creating a world where everyone, regardless of their abilities, can thrive and lead fulfilling lives.

Creating a Supportive Environment for Individuals with Autism

Creating a supportive environment for individuals with autism is crucial to their success at home, school, and in the community. Here are some tips on how to create an environment that supports individuals with autism:

At Home

  • Establish routines: Individuals with autism thrive on routines. Establishing consistent routines can help them feel more comfortable and secure.
  • Create a sensory-friendly space: Sensory overload can be overwhelming for individuals with autism. Creating a quiet, sensory-friendly space at home where they can go to decompress can be helpful.
  • Use visual aids: Visual aids such as picture schedules and social stories can help individuals with autism understand expectations and navigate daily activities.

At School

  • Communicate with teachers: Communication between parents/caregivers and teachers is essential in creating a supportive environment for students with autism. Share information about what works well at home and any challenges the student may face.
  • Provide accommodations: Students with autism may require accommodations such as preferential seating, breaks, or modified assignments to succeed in the classroom.
  • Encourage peer relationships: Encouraging peer relationships can help students with autism feel included and supported in the classroom.

In the Community

  • Advocate for inclusion: Individuals with autism have the right to participate fully in their communities. Advocate for inclusive environments that welcome individuals of all abilities.
  • Provide resources: Providing resources such as social skills groups or sensory-friendly events can help individuals with autism feel more comfortable participating in community activities.
  • Educate others: Educating others about autism and how to support individuals on the spectrum can create a more welcoming and understanding community.

Strategies for promoting social skills development in individuals with autism

Social skills can be challenging for individuals with autism, but there are strategies that can help promote social skill development. Here are some effective strategies:

Social Skills Groups

Social skills groups provide individuals with autism the opportunity to practice social interactions in a structured and supportive environment. These groups can focus on specific social skills such as initiating conversations, maintaining eye contact, and taking turns.


Role-playing is an effective way to teach and practice social skills. Individuals with autism can role-play different scenarios such as ordering food at a restaurant or participating in a group conversation.

Video Modeling

Video modeling involves using videos to teach and demonstrate appropriate social behaviors. Individuals with autism can watch videos of their peers or adults engaging in social interactions, then imitate those behaviors.

Peer-Mediated Interventions

Peer-mediated interventions involve pairing individuals with autism with neurotypical peers who serve as models and coaches for appropriate social behavior. This approach has been shown to be effective in improving social skills in individuals with autism.

Visual Supports

Visual supports such as picture schedules, visual cues, and social stories can be helpful in teaching and reinforcing social skills. These supports provide individuals with autism a clear understanding of what is expected of them in different situations.

By implementing these strategies, parents, caregivers, and educators can help promote the social skill development of individuals with autism.


Is autism always considered a special need?

Yes, autism is always considered a special need. It's important to note that not all individuals with autism require the same level of support or services, but the condition itself is always considered a special need.

What are some common misconceptions about autism and special needs?

One common misconception is that individuals with autism cannot learn or achieve success. This is simply not true. With the right supports and services, individuals with autism can make significant progress and lead fulfilling lives. Another misconception is that all individuals with autism have the same needs or abilities, when in fact, each individual with autism is unique and requires an individualized approach to meet their specific needs.

How can I advocate for my child with autism as a special needs student?

As a parent or caregiver of a child with autism, it's important to educate yourself on your child's rights as a special needs student. This includes understanding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and knowing what accommodations and services your child is entitled to receive. It's also important to communicate effectively with your child's school and teachers, attend IEP meetings, and ensure that your child's needs are being met in the classroom.


In conclusion, autism is considered a special need because it requires extra attention, support, and services to help individuals with autism achieve their full potential. Special education services and therapy services can be beneficial in helping individuals with autism learn, communicate, and interact with others. If you're a parent or caregiver of a child with autism, it's important to understand that there are resources available to help your child succeed.


Continue Reading