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The 3 Levels of Autism Explained

By Shola Tijani, MD
Lane Pediatrics

Those unfamiliar with the nuances of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may assume that all children on the spectrum participate in repetitive behaviors, don’t make eye contact, and are largely non-verbal. While these signs may be present, there are many children whose symptoms are far milder, and those whose symptoms are more severe. 

ASD is a wide and diverse range of possible complications, and children within the spectrum do not all fall into neat categories. For that reason, the classifications of ASD have changed significantly.

Previous Autism Spectrum Disorder Terminology

Many of the misconceptions surrounding ASD are rooted in outdated terminology. Before 2013, a diagnosis fell into one of three categories: Austistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, or Pervasive Development Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). While this system was more cut-and-dried, it did not account for subtle differences and left much open to interpretation.


Current Classifications of Autism Spectrum Disorder

ASD is now categorized into three different levels based on the level of required support.

ASD Level 1

Lowest classification

Individuals require minimal support with issues like inhibited social interaction and lack of organization and planning skills.

ASD Level 2

Mid-range classification

Individuals require substantial support and have problems that are more obvious to others, including trouble with verbal communication, having restricted interests, and exhibiting frequent, repetitive behaviors.

ASD Level 3

Most severe classification

Signs associated with both  Level 1 and Level 2 are present but more severe and accompanied by other complications. Individuals have limited ability to communicate and interact socially.

Is My Child “On Track”?

As parents, we are invested in our children’s progress, which makes it tempting to make comparisons with other children for reassurance that our kids are “on track.” This is called “competitive parenting,” and shifts perspective from a child’s unique strengths and weaknesses, interests and aversions.

If you worry your child isn’t expressing a range of emotions, communicating thoughts, or reflecting an understanding of language, visual cues, and behavior, talk with your Pediatrician.

Coping with an Autism  Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis

A diagnosis of Autism can drastically change your perception of day-to-day life. It might require you to learn new coping skills and restructure priorities, which can affect plans and create more structure than desired. But in that space, you will learn how to advocate for your child, and discover new ideas, goals and priorities. Adaptability is key in finding what suits your family’s unique circumstances. 

I advise parents of ASD children to find strength in the delight of seeing your child meet goals, and  let that inspire you to continue learning more about ASD. In doing so, you will gain tools to benefit your unique circumstances, and equip you to be the best advocate for your child!

Autism Support in Zachary

Parents of a child with suspected or diagnosed ASD need the support of a knowledgeable and understanding pediatrician. Dr. Shola Tijani provides experienced, compassionate, and comprehensive care at Lane Pediatrics. Please call 225-658-4070 to make an appointment.

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