The three levels of autism – making sense of your child’s diagnosis
The different levels of autism
Autism was previously broken down into several different diagnosis such as Asperger’s, PDD-NOS, and Rhett’s Syndrome. Since the release of the DSM-5 in May 2013 (for diagnosis purposes), autism has become defined as a “single spectrum disorder” in which levels were defined.
What is the DSM-5?
The DSM-5 (published in May 2013) is the official publication of the American Psychiatric Association which defines psychiatric and developmental disorders. This is where psychologists and psychiatrist use the criteria identified determine an individual’s diagnosis.
The Levels of Autism -What may this look like in my child?
Level 1: Requiring Support
Social: This will present as having deficits in social communication that cause them noticeable impairments. They show difficulties with starting social interactions and have difficulties with properly interacting with peers. They will likely be verbal, but could have difficulties with using language in a proper manner.
Behaviour/Interest: They will have repetitive type behaviours and routines or rituals that interfere with their day-to-day life. This can include things such as difficulty with transitions and inflexible behaviours.
Level 2: Requiring Substantial Support
Social: This will present as having deficits in social communication, this may affect either their verbal or non-verbal communication with others. These impairments are noticeable even with extra supports in place for the individual. The individual will have difficulties with starting social interactions and have difficulties with properly interacting with peers.
Behaviour/Interest: They will have repetitive type behaviours and routines or rituals that interfere with day-to-day life. This can include things such as difficulty with transitions and inflexible behaviours, however these behaviours will be frequent enough to be noticed by those around them. When these behaviours are interrupted, the individual will become frustrated and have difficulty with being redirected from the item of interest, calming down.
Level 3: Requiring Very Substantial Support
Social: This will present as a severe deficit in social communication which will include both verbal and nonverbal communication with others. This causes severe limitations in their social interactions with others. They will show limited or very little response to other attempts to initiate social interactions with them.
Behaviour/Interest: They will have inflexible behaviours, very restrictive routines or rituals, extreme difficulty with changes and transitions, or other restricted behaviours that severely interfere with functioning in all areas. When being redirected from an item of interest they will demonstrate extreme behaviours.
This blog is adapted from: Alicia Trautwien- The Mom Kind
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.