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How Many Levels Of Autism Are There

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The Different Levels/Types of Autism Spectrum Disorder | High Functioning vs Low

By Aaron Kandola, Reviewed by Karen Gill, MD

Autism is a spectrum disorder that causes social and behavioral problems. There are three different levels of autism, which range from mild to severe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , about one in 59 children have autism. Signs of the condition are usually present at a young age, but occasionally people do not receive a diagnosis until adulthood.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 , doctors categorize autism by assigning level 1, 2, or 3 to two of the domains of symptoms.

One severity score is for impairment in social function, while a second severity score is for restrictive, repetitive behaviors. The levels the doctor assigns depend on the severity of the symptoms.

A correct autism diagnosis that includes the levels of severity can help doctors and other specialists work with the individual to provide the right treatment and support. In this article, learn more about the levels of autism.

Therapies For Level 2 Autism

The therapies that are used at Level 2 are much more varied and involved than those deployed at Level 1.

Some Level 2 individuals might receive sensory integration therapy, which helps them understand how to deal with sensory inputs that can feel threatening and overwhelming.

Such outputs include:

  • Loud or unexpected noises.
  • Vivid visual changes.

Level 2 patients may also receive occupational therapy, which helps them develop necessary skills to carry out and continue daily tasks. This is especially useful to help individuals learn how to make decisions on their own or to carry out job functions.

Applied behavior analysis is more commonly used with Level 2 individuals than it is for those with Level 1 autism. While occupational therapy is its own form of treatment, it can work very well with ABA therapy to help Level 2 patients learn how they can function while understanding how to interact with their environment and the people in it.

How Is Asd Diagnosed

ASD symptoms can vary greatly from person to person depending on the severity of the disorder. Symptoms may even go unrecognized for young children who have mild ASD or less debilitating handicaps.

Autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed by clinicians based on symptoms, signs, and testing according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V, a guide created by the American Psychiatric Association used to diagnose mental disorders. Children should be screened for developmental delays during periodic checkups and specifically for autism at 18- and 24-month well-child visits.

Very early indicators that require evaluation by an expert include:

  • no babbling or pointing by age 1
  • no single words by age 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
  • no response to name
  • excessive lining up of toys or objects
  • no smiling or social responsiveness

Later indicators include:

  • impaired ability to make friends with peers
  • impaired ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
  • absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
  • repetitive or unusual use of language
  • abnormally intense or focused interest
  • preoccupation with certain objects or subjects
  • inflexible adherence to specific routines or rituals

Recommended Reading: How To Get Autistic Child To Listen

Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder

In order to determine whether your child has autism spectrum disorder or another developmental condition, clinicians look carefully at the way your child interacts with others, communicates, and behaves. Diagnosis is based on the patterns of behavior that are revealed.

If you are concerned that your child has autism spectrum disorder and developmental screening confirms the risk, ask your family doctor or pediatrician to refer you immediately to an autism specialist or team of specialists for a comprehensive evaluation. Since the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is complicated, it is essential that you meet with experts who have training and experience in this highly specialized area.

The team of specialists involved in diagnosing your child may include:

  • Child psychologists
  • Physical therapists
  • Special education teachers
  • Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder is not a brief process. There is no single medical test that can diagnose it definitively; instead, in order to accurately pinpoint your childs problem, multiple evaluations and tests may be necessary.

    Current Classifications Of Autism Spectrum Disorder

    An Autism Protocol for the 21st Century

    While the old system of classification may seem a little more cut-and-dried, the subtle differences that often distinguished one from the other left room for a lot of confusion and much was open to interpretation. To address this, ASD is now categorized into three different levels, indicating what level of support a patient may need.

    • ASD Level 1 Level 1 ASD is currently the lowest classification. Those on this level will require some support to help with issues like inhibited social interaction and lack of organization and planning skills.
    • ASD Level 2 In the mid-range of ASD is Level 2. In this level, individuals require substantial support and have problems that are more readily obvious to others. These issues may be trouble with verbal communication, having very restricted interests, and exhibiting frequent, repetitive behaviors.
    • ASD Level 3 On the most severe end of the spectrum is Level 3 which requires very substantial support. Signs associated with both Level 1 and Level 2 are still present but are far more severe and accompanied by other complications as well. Individuals at this level will have limited ability to communicate and interact socially with others.

    Read Also: What Age Does Autism Appear

    What Are The 5 Types Of Autism

    Autism refers to a wide range of neurodevelopmental disorders. If your child is living with autism, it is important for you to understand the various types of autism and the symptoms presented by each.

    Understanding the unique challenges presented by each type of autism will guide you in helping your child cope with the disorder. There are five major types of autism which include Aspergers syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, Kanners syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.

    Who Resolution On Autism Spectrum Disorders

    In May 2014, the Sixty-seventh World Health Assembly adopted a resolution entitled “Comprehensive and coordinated efforts for the management of autism spectrum disorders ,”;which was supported by more than 60 countries.

    The resolution urges WHO to collaborate with Member States and partner agencies to strengthen national capacities to address ASD and other developmental disabilities.

    Read Also: What Percent Of People With Autism Get Married

    About Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy

    The Aspiro Adventure programs are uniquely crafted to assist students and their families in creating lasting, life-long emotional changes through compassionate, intentional, research-backed, and safe outdoor adventure therapy programs. The professionals at all of the Aspiro group programs understand individuals dont come with instructions, and every student is unique, capable, and amazing in their own right.

    All of our programs focus on helping adolescents, young adults, and their families through difficulties that occur when various behavioral, cognitive, or developmental issues are present. Research shows that engaging individuals on a personal level with strategic and intentional activities will aid in developing the tools and skills necessary to engage life in a healthy and positive way. Aspiro group programs include Aspiro Adventure, Daniels Academy, Vantage Point, Pure Life, ;Black mountain Academy, and Outback.

    Parentscould My Baby Have Autism New Resource Aims To Identify Asd Early

    Levels of Autism: Symptoms and criteria | Types of Autism | The Disorder

    Another important aspect of autism spectrum disorder relates to deficits in social communication.

    This can impact ones manner of speech, ability to engage in typical social communication such as humor, sarcasm or use of idioms, and more, Pipkin said. Social skills deficits can also be much more nuanced. It can be very like landing in the middle of a foreign land with a language you do not speak and rules that everyone else seems to know but of which you are unaware. Reading body language, facial expressions, changes in tone or picking up on hints, such as recognizing the specific interest about which you have been talking for the last two hours is not how the listener would like to spend their afternoon.

    Read Also: Is The Actor In Atypical Autistic

    Is Rett Syndrome An Asd

    Children with Rett syndrome often have behaviors similar to autism, and experts used to group it among spectrum disorders. But now that itâs known to be caused by a genetic mutation, itâs no longer considered an ASD.

    National Institute of Mental Health: “Autism Spectrum Disorders.”

    National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Asperger Syndrome Fact Sheet.”

    Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: âSpecifying PDD-NOS: A Comparison of PDD-NOS, Asperger Syndrome, and Autism.â

    Psychiatric Clinics of North America: âThe autistic spectrum: subgroups, boundaries, and treatment.â

    Spectrum: âReclassification of Rett syndrome diagnosis stirs concerns.â

    Rettsyndrome.org: âWhat is Rett Syndrome?â

    Autism Speaks: âAsperger Syndrome,â âAbout Autism: Why Was My Child Diagnosed with Autism? And What Does It Mean?â

    Centers for Disease Control: âFacts About ASD.â

    Is Rett Syndrome Autism

    Rett syndrome or Rett disorder has also been called autism-dementia-ataxia-loss of purposeful hand use syndrome.

    But its not included on the autism spectrum. Its a brain disorder caused by genetic mutations.

    Classic Rett syndrome usually affects girls who display typical development for the first few months. Then, symptoms start to appear, involving issues with:

    • language and communication

    If you think your child might have symptoms of autism, speak with their pediatrician or a primary care physician. They can refer you to the appropriate specialist, such as a:

    You can also request an evaluation from your states public early childhood assistance center. Its free, and you dont need a doctors referral or diagnosis. Your local public school district can also provide assistance.

    Theres no one medical test to diagnose autism spectrum disorder. A doctor can make the diagnosis with a comprehensive behavior evaluation and developmental screening.

    Some people on the spectrum need minimal support services. Others require a lot. Either way, early intervention is associated with long-term positive effects.

    Read Also: What Is The Difference Between High And Low Functioning Autism

    Variations In The Level Of Impairments

    Each person with autism spectrum disorder is different from each other. Thats why there are variations in the level of each functional impairment in the same person. In addition, even among individuals who get diagnosed with the same level of autism, it can vary. Some dysfunctions or impairments might be more prominent in some individuals than in others.

    Also, the functioning level which is assigned to a child or adult with autism spectrum disorder serves as a guide for what treatments, what interventions, and what kind of support the person needs in order to achieve the best functional outcome.

    Due to the variations, even individuals with severe symptoms of autism may have extraordinary talents and skills. Nonverbal does not mean the same thing as incapable. Moreover, there are some individuals with mild symptoms who have also severe symptoms.

    In addition, many individuals with autism have splinter skills, which means that they are able to do a specific task that does not generalize to other tasks. Splinter skills are the abilities that are completely real and legitimate, but very limited in scope.

    Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified

    Pin by Audrey Shehane on Autism resource in 2021

    Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified described children who didn’t fully fit the criteria for other specific autism diagnoses ;but still had some symptoms of autism. Essentially, PDD-NOS was a “catchall” term for disorders with autism-like symptoms that didn’t fit the full criteria for;another diagnosis.

    Because there was no easy way to define the symptoms of PDD-NOS, which may range from very mild to very severe, the diagnostic category no longer exists, though a new diagnosis introduced in the DSM-5, social communication disorder, may become a similar catchall category.;

    Also Check: Can Autistic People Understand Sarcasm

    Autistic Children Are Highly Creative

    Autism facts point out that autistic children might showcase great creativity. Following that, having creative outlets early on might help autistic people unlock and realize their potential.

    As a parent, one could try introducing the following activities in their childs day:

    • Making music with toy instruments
    • Reading a book for fun
    • Dancing freely or by following a tutorial or video
    • Tracing shapes and objects for reference or drawing freehand
    • Coloring.

    Criteria For Social Communication Disorder Diagnosis

    Social communication disorder ;is similar to autism spectrum disorder. The main difference is that children diagnosed with SCD dont have restricted, repetitive and/or sensory behaviour.

    If children have at least two restricted, repetitive and/or sensory behaviours, it could point to a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. If not, it could point to a diagnosis of SCD.

    Read Also: Can You See Autism In Infants

    Asd Level : Requiring Substantial Support

    Social communication and repetitive behaviors present themselves more obviously in children with ASD level 2 than in children with level 1 autism. Children on this level have challenges in verbal and nonverbal communication, as well as reduced or abnormal responses to social cues.

    Inflexibility of behavior is also more pronounced than in ASD level 1. Repetitive behaviors appear more frequently and may be obvious to casual observes. Likewise, children with level 2 autism may have difficulty coping with changes in routine, which can cause challenging behavior.

    What Causes Autism Spectrum Disorder

    Autism & Pediatric Diseases : Different Types of Autism

    There is no clear-cut cause of ASD. Some causes that are supported by research include genetic and some environmental factors. Specific genetic causes can only be identified in 10% to 20% of cases. These cases include specific genetic syndromes associated with ASD and rare changes in the genetic code.

    Risk factors include older parental age, low birth weight, prematurity and maternal use of valproic acid or thalidomide during pregnancy, among others. This field of study is an active one for reasearch.

    Also Check: Which Racial Ethnic Group Has The Highest Prevalence Of Autism

    An Insight Into The Various Types Of Autism

    Let us now get a deeper insight into each of the following forms of Autism.

    Fig 3:

    As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the various types of autism spectrum disorders present;a significant overlap with one another. The following 3 characteristics are carefully evaluated to arrive at the right conclusion:

    • Social skills within families;coping with Autism;and externally
    • Autism Communication Skills

    For example, it is extremely hard;to discriminate between mild PDD and moderate Aspergers symptoms as a patient may demonstrate both characteristics in the autism spectrum quotient.

    Aba Therapy & Level 3 Autism

    Applied behavior analysis therapy is effective for people with all levels of autism, but its especially useful for Level 3 individuals. It can be used in any setting, making it much easier to meet the client where they are .

    The therapy starts by creating a positive association between the client and the provider. No matter how debilitating the Level 3 autism is, the seeds are planted to help the client move past these limitations.

    The registered behavior technician who is applying the ABA therapy will use assistive communication devices, specialized tools that can support and enhance communication for clients, regardless of the speech abilities or limitations imposed on them by their autism. These methods can assist the client toward independence, help them grow their communication abilities, and increase their platform for social interactions.

    Additionally, a registered behavior technician will know how best to change the environment for the betterment of the client. This professional knows how to consistently apply positive reinforcement and consequences to guide the client through their therapy.

    If the client isnt progressing as intended, the RBT will consult with the board certified behavior analyst who assessed the client and crafted the treatment plan. The BCBA will design changes to the treatment approach as needed, and the RBT will implement these changes.

    Read Also: Can Autism Run In The Family

    Other Terminology You May Have Heard For Types Of Autism

    Terms like mild or high functioning arent official diagnoses. Some people find these terms useful, but many in the autistic community havent found them to be helpful or accurate, largely due to the range of abilities that can be present in an autistic person.

    You may also have heard about three levels of autism, with level 1 being the mildest and level 3 the most severe.

    How Are Asd Levels Determined

    The Three Functional Levels of Autismm Non

    While its difficult to determine a persons ASD level, trained psychologists have some tools that can help them accomplish this, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition . This assessment is typically paired with a thorough developmental history.

    ASD can be diagnosed as early as 18 months . However, many children, and even some adults, may not be diagnosed until much later.

    Being diagnosed at a later age can make treatment more difficult. If you or your childs pediatrician think they may be autistic, consider making an appointment with an ASD specialist. Learn more about testing for ASD.

    Don’t Miss: What Does The Puzzle Mean For Autism

    Epilepsy Is Most Common In Autistic Children Over The Age Of Nine

    In a nutshell, epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of seizures and associated with abnormal activity in the brain. Autism spectrum disorder statistics show that epilepsy is most common in autistic children over the age of nine. Whats more, autistic children over the age of ten have a 2.35 times higher chance of being diagnosed with epilepsy than younger children.

    Level : Requiring Substantial Support

    People who meet the level 2 criteria need more support than those with level 1 autism. Social challenges can make holding a conversation very difficult.

    Even with support, the person may find it hard to communicate coherently, and they are more likely to respond in ways that neurotypical people consider surprising or inappropriate.

    The person may:

    • only discuss very specific topics
    • have difficulty understanding or using nonverbal communication, including facial expression

    For example, they may face away from the person with whom they are communicating.

    People with level 2 autism may also find daily functioning difficult due to the challenges of coping with change. Facing change might cause them to experience significant distress.

    Read Also: Can You Detect Autism In The Womb

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