It is important for students to feel integrated and understood in their classes by their teachers and peers. This is no exception for students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is why it is important for children with ASD in mainstream classrooms to have teachers and school psychologists who are culturally and linguistically sensitive to their autistic identity. Cultural and linguistic responsiveness (CLR) has been defined in different ways in the pedagogical literature. Hollie offers a technical, a conceptual, and a metaphorical definition (2018, p. 27). Technically, CLR is the validation and affirmation of home culture and language for the purpose of building and creating a scaffolding for success in academic culture and mainstream society (Hollie, 2018, p. 27). Conceptually, CLR is meeting the student where they are culturally and linguistically with the goal of getting them to where they need to be academically (Hollie, 2018, p. 27). Metaphorically, CLR is the opposite of the “sink-or-swim approach” that is typical in traditional schools (Hollie, 2018, p. 27). This research refers to these definitions of CLR offered by Hollie. Cultural and linguistic responsiveness to autistic identity can help children with ASD integrate into mainstream spaces, such as public schools, and help them succeed academically and feel comfortable expressing their identity.

To begin with, autism spectrum disorder is a disorder that presents deficiencies in social skills and language development, and obsessive interests and/or repetitive behaviors (Myers et al., 2011). These symptoms can be seen differently in each child with ASD and can lead to difficulties integrating into mainstream classrooms. Regarding conventional classes, I am referring to typical classes of public schools. It is important to recognize autistic identity because it is part of the intersectionality of identities in a student with ASD. That is, without acknowledging it, a teacher cannot understand his or her student with ASD. This research does not pretend to explain autistic identity exhaustively as it is extensive and complex, like any other identity. Rather, I would highlight some aspects that can be part of ASD and/or autistic identity and demonstrate why they need to be addressed in a different way. It will also describe what actions teachers and psychologists can take to create an environment in schools and mainstream classrooms that is culturally and linguistically sensitive for students with ASD.

Problem Areas

First, I will highlight the problematic points. There are several problem spots in health systems and conventional school settings that indicate a lack of cultural and linguistic sensitivity to the autistic identity of children with ASD. Starting with the discrepancies in the diagnosis and treatment of ASD among different racial and ethnic groups. The number of Latinx children diagnosed with ASD is lower than Caucasian and Black groups, and Latinx and Black children tend to be diagnosed with autism later than Caucasian children (Schmidt et al., 2021). It also appears that schools may be the only place where minority families have access to autism services (Schmidt et al., 2021). However, some psychological assessments used are not culturally and linguistically sensitive to the populations that are used to assess ASD. For example, the ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) psychological assessment may lack sensitivity to cultural differences of racial and ethnic minority groups (Schmidt et al., 2021). These psychological evaluations are done with “mainstream” populations in mind and therefore are not fully relevant to the development of children from minority groups such as Hispanics or Latinx and people of African descent.

With respect to the school environment, conventional classes are typically designed for neurotypical students and often do not take into account the autistic identity of children with ASD and how they perceive some social interactions or other situations differently. Children with ASD tend to be more inactive, i.e., less engaged, than their neurotypical peers due to their lack of integration into social activities (Myers et al., 2011). Children with ASD are aware of these social differences, which makes them more susceptible to low self-esteem (Myers et al., 2011). If students experience isolation from their neurotypical peers and also from their self-perception, this can lead to low self-esteem in terms of social interactions and continue to foster this exclusion. If a class or school is not conducive to the inclusion of all student identities, then it is not CLR. Children with ASD may require different attention than their neurotypical peers from different experiences to certain sensations. Not all, but many children with ASD have hyposensitivity or hypersensitivity to sensations that can lead to poor academic performance (Myers et al., 2011). If a conventional class has a lot of stimuli such as colorful posters, loud songs, students talking when the teacher is teaching, this class is not sensitive to students with ASD and hypersensitive. This is because a hypersensitive student can become more distracted by these multiple sensations. Therefore, conventional classes with the problems discussed above are not culturally and linguistically sensitive to autistic identity in children diagnosed with ASD.


Therefore, the overall goals of this research are to raise awareness about autistic identity so that families of minority groups have more information on the subject and ASD can be diagnosed and treated at an earlier age. Also create more social acceptance of the autistic identity of children or other people with ASD to emphasize the importance of helping students with ASD develop important skills, such as social skills, to integrate into mainstream public school classrooms. The specific goals of this research are to find and detail aspects in mainstream schools that are not culturally and linguistically sensitive to autistic identity. Therefore, another important goal is to offer suggestions on how teachers, psychologists, and neurotypical peers can increase their cultural and linguistic competence to be more inclusive of autistic identity.

Importance of Recognizing Autistic Identity

It’s important to recognize one’s autistic identity because without recognizing it, you can’t really understand and know a student with ASD. Just as it is important to be culturally and linguistically sensitive to racial, ethnic, or cultural minority identities in order to create scaffolds to the academic culture of students with these identities, it must also be done for the autistic identity of a student with ASD. But it is also important to recognize that autistic identity is not the only identity that students with ASD have. Students have an intersectionality of identities that interact to create how they perceive and experience the world. Again, children with Latinx and/or Black ASD are diagnosed later than their Caucasian peers (Schmidt et al., 2021). This can lead to starting treatments at an older age and, therefore, different results.

Challenges for Students with ASD

Some challenges faced by students with ASD in conventional classrooms are abnormal sensory processing, difficulties in interpersonal and social interactions, and a systemic perception of ASD as problematic (Myers et al., 2011). According to Myers et al., all of these problems can lead to low levels of self-esteem, which can then lead to other mental health problems (2011). With low self-esteem, students with ASD may have more challenges when trying to integrate into a mainstream classroom. Abnormal processing of sensations is common in people with ASD and can be challenging for students with ASD because it may be harder for them to focus if they are hypersensitive. In fact, sensory processing abilities are a better predictor of academic performance than measured intelligence (Myers et al., 2011). In a classroom designed to stimulate neurotypical students, students with hypersensitive ASD can feel overwhelmed, sensorily overloaded, and distracted. Students with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of ASD, were more inactive in social activities than their neurotypical peers because of social exclusion or because they were excluded because of their self-perception (Myers et al., 2011). This can also lead to low levels of self-esteem in a student with ASD.

The Deaf Community as an Antecedent

One example, or antecedent, of a minority group with a prescribed identity as disabled that has seen positive changes from making changes to the conventional class structure to be culturally and linguistically sensitive has been the deaf community. During the 19th-century “oralism movement” advocated by Alexander Graham Bell, people in the deaf community were encouraged to pretend they could hear (Myers et al., 2011). Learning to read lips and pronounce like people who can hear was not conducive to their academic development (Myers et al., 2011). Instead, these techniques led to reduced literacy and academic performance as a result of investing a lot of time in skills that did not come naturally to them (Myers et al., 2011). In short, the “oralism movement” that sought to help deaf people integrate, but did not take into account their identities, was inefficient. However, when conventional classes were structured to be more inclusive of deaf students, these students were more inclusive and had the same number of friendships as their peers (Myers et al., 2011). In other words, by taking a CLR stance on the education of children from the deaf community, they were able to integrate more effectively into mainstream classes.

Suggested Practices

Teachers can be more culturally and linguistically sensitive to students with ASD by starting by fostering an environment that encourages the expression of autistic identity in students with ASD. Some suggestions for achieving this are to include practices that create a scaffolding for students with ASD when they integrate into mainstream classes and that adjust the mindset of their neurotypical peers (Myers et al., 2011). Teachers can provide a scaffolding for conventional practices within the classroom and other conventional spaces (Myers et al., 2011). For these suggestions, I propose several of the same CLR techniques used for students from diverse cultural backgrounds. One suggestion about the physical structure of the classroom is to modify it so that it is sensitive to the hyposensitivity or hypersensitivity of some students with ASD (Myers et al., 2011). Teachers can adjust their classrooms to be more inclusive, for example, by adjusting stimuli that may distract sensorily sensitive students. Similarly, they can provide materials that can provide sensations that hyposensitive students seek. For example, teachers can provide fidget cubes, fidget spinners, wobble cushions, and other classroom materials to help provide these sensations to hyposensitive students and thus help them focus. By doing this, the teacher recognizes how the student with ASD perceives sensations differently and seeks to include them.

Moving on, teachers can use the example of a more flexible mindset to encourage this open-mindedness toward autistic identity in neurotypical learners (Myers et al., 2011). If neurotypical students are CLR to the autistic identity of their peers with ASD, this may reduce the feelings of exclusion that some students with ASD have. Another suggestion is to promote biculturalism in the classroom to empower the expression and exploration of their autistic identity and other minority cultural identities they may have. In this way, students can feel comfortable, and even proud of their identity and decrease feelings of low self-esteem.

Similarly, some suggestions for school psychologists to help create this more culturally and linguistically sensitive academic environment are to inform themselves and share practices based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), applied behavior analysis, and suggest prosocial practices to teachers (Williams et al., 2005). Psychologists can suggest to teachers how classrooms can be modified to promote social integration (Williams et al., 2005). They may suggest integrated groups between children with ASD and neurotypical peers. This has been seen to reduce levels of isolated play and stereotypical behaviors (Williams et al., 2005). They can also teachStrategies such as modeling, incitement, and reinforcing prosocial behaviors during interactive activities between students with ASD and neurotypical students (Williams et al., 2005). An example of class structuring that is It is more prosocial to create mixed groups rather than allowing students to choose their own teams as this can lead to rejection and social exclusion (Williams et al., 2005). All of these strategies demand that the school psychologist have good communication with teachers and serve as an educating voice about ASD.

In addition, other ways school psychologists can help are by teaching techniques supported by the psychology literature. One of these is the peer-mediated approach that has led to increased levels of interactions and initiatives in students with ASD when their peers were coached (Williams et al., 2005). This training involves educating neurotypical peers about children with disabilities, their strengths and weaknesses, and suggestions for how to interact with peers with ASD (Williams et al., 2005). This is similar to what has previously been mentioned about helping to foster an open-mindedness of neurotypical students toward the autistic identity of peers with ASD. Educating neurotypical students about their peers’ autistic identity helps prevent social exclusion. Finally, and probably the most engaging approach for the psychologist is to provide social skills training (Williams et al., 2005). This training involves teaching specific skills such as maintaining eye contact and initiating conversation (Williams et al., 2005). In this way, the psychologist can create a scaffolding for a child with ASD for social interactions within conventional spaces, especially academic ones.

Examples of Suggestions Applied in the Classroom

There are several strategies teachers can implement to make their classroom more CLR for students with ASD. Two examples of the various strategies that can be applied are visual classroom modification and training students with ASD and neurotypical students in social interactions. Martin and Wilkin (2021) analyzed studies they conducted in the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Japan to suggest specific changes that teachers can implement in their classrooms to make them more visually appropriate for students with ASD. These changes would help teachers address the needs of their students with ASD with respect to visual sensory processing. Martin and Wilkin (2021) suggest arranging chairs in a facing the teacher, keeping only the relevant visuals on the walls, adding visual cues to the classroom, creating distinctive areas for each activity, reducing brightness and glare from windows, and creating visuals that are highly contrasting to their background, among other suggestions. For example, a teacher can add visual cues on the floor to indicate where students should line up for recess. Teachers can also add only the visuals that are relevant, such as letters of the alphabet, to the wall so that their patterns and patterns are visible. colors are contrasting to the wall/background. This can lessen distractions that would otherwise be caused by multiple visual sensations of images that are not necessarily relevant or have many patterns/colors.

Next, in their study, Banda et al. (2010) suggest that teachers can also implement peer-to-peer training to increase the social skills of students with ASD with other neurotypical peers. Peer-to-peer training in this study consisted of training participants with ASD and neurotypical participants to ask and answer their peers’ questions. To do this, the researcher modeled the questions, so that the students could then ask them independently. After that, the researcher only provided a verbal cue when necessary. That is, instead of saying the question or answer they were supposed to say, the researcher offered an indication such as “Who can answer Alex’s question?” The results of the study indicated that peer-to-peer training increased each participant’s initiation of social interaction and social response. However, a limitation of this study is that the participants were only two students with ASD and six neurotypical students (three for each student with ASD) around the age of six. This limits the results because it does not reveal information about students of other ages and because the number of students was very limited.


In short, students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have a lack of spaces that are culturally and linguistically sensitive to their autistic identity. For starters, minority children are not being diagnosed at as young an age as their Caucasian peers. If they are not diagnosed with ASD, therapy begins later, and it is more difficult for parents, teachers, or others to be culturally and linguistically sensitive to their autistic identity. Examples of restructuring conventional classrooms to be culturally and linguistically responsive are those made for deaf students. These changes helped to include and integrate deaf students into mainstream classrooms while maintaining their identity as a deaf culture. Teachers can create CLR-like classes by modeling neurotypical students in a mindset of inclusion and understanding, adjusting the classroom to be more sensitive to abnormal sensory processing, and supporting biculturalism. School psychologists can help create more CLR school environments by informing and teachingTeachers are given practices based on the ABA. Restructuring conventional classes to be culturally and linguistically sensitive to autistic identity is important because it would help students with ASD perform academically more successfully. A class that takes into account their autistic identity, and how the student perceives the world based on this, can help their integration into conventional spaces and increase levels of self-esteem that can help prevent other mental health problems from arising.