The term “spectrum” in autism spectrum disorder is used to describe the wide range of symptoms, skills and levels of impairment that people with the disorder can experience. As you can imagine, the spectrum is vast, which means individuals can show relatively minimal outward signs of autism, significant signs or fall somewhere in the middle.
Up until May of 2013, individuals were diagnosed within five different categories of autism. Now, whether a person was previously diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, autism disorder or Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), they’d be included under the same umbrella diagnosis of autism.
At Rice Psychology Group, we understand autism can potentially stand in the way of being able to live a comfortable life, but we’ll help you or your loved ones find the best path towards feeling better. The first step is to properly understand and recognize the key factors of autism spectrum disorder.
Understanding the Three Levels of Autism
The sheer size of the autism spectrum can make it difficult for clinicians to describe the seriousness of any given patient’s autism. While some people with autism show average or above average intelligence, others may be intellectually limited, and when some exhibit communication problems, others may find it extremely easy to express themselves through many forms of communication.
To solve this issue, the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5, nicknamed the “Bible” of mental health diagnosis, separates autism into three levels. Each is defined by the amount of support a diagnosed individual needs to function in life. We have offered just a brief description of each level below:
Level 1: Requiring Support
The first level of autism includes people who experience difficulty initiating or keeping their interest in social interactions. This can be characterized by someone who can speak full sentences and easily engages in communication but cannot keep up with the to-and-fro rhythm of regular conversation.
This person can also awkwardly attempt to make friends with little-to-no success and often has difficulty switching between activities. If the right support system is not given to someone with this level of autism, their shortcomings in social communication can lead to noticeable deficiencies and hindered independence.
Level 2: Requiring Substantial Support
A person who experiences this level of autism generally communicates in simple sentences, interacts only with the few special interests they have and has odd or unusual nonverbal communication. Autism in this level can additionally be characterized by:
- Obvious deficits in verbal and non-verbal communication skills
- Social impairments that appear even when a support system has been enforced
- Limited or odd responses to social interactions with others
- Trouble coping with change
- Behavioral inflexibility
Level 3: Requiring Very Substantial Support
A person with level three autism rarely initiates contact with others and has very limited speech. He or she will also make uncommon approaches only when they need to meet their needs and will respond only to very direct social approaches. Level three autism is often characterized by:
- Extreme difficulty when faced with change
- Extreme distress when changing focus or action
- Behavioral inflexibility
It’s important to understand that a lack of support for someone with this degree of autism can lead to severe impairments in functioning, limited initiation of social interactions and limited response to the social overtures of others.
The Help You Need
If you, your child or loved one are experiencing the signs of autism, it may be time to visit the psychologists at Rice Psychology Group. Even when you feel as if your options to move towards a better life are limited, remember that with the best support and expert assistance, you and your loved ones’ lives can improve.
Our team of psychologists is ready to provide professional support in a comfortable and relaxing setting designed to help you and your loved ones feel at ease at all times. Let us help you find the solution you’ve been looking for. If you have any questions, call our offices in Tampa today.