Autism can be a confusing disorder for parents and professionals alike due to its many different levels. However, research has shown that there are distinct patterns and similarities when it comes to understanding how the condition manifests in individuals across all age groups.
The “evidence-based interventions for autism” is a treatment approach that has been shown to be the most effective in treating individuals on the spectrum. This treatment approach consists of three different levels, and each level is designed to meet the needs of an individual’s specific condition.
Autism is a condition in which individuals have a variety of social, communicative, and behavioral issues. Autism is sometimes known as autism spectrum disorder since the problems occur on a spectrum.
There are three stages of autism, ranging from moderate impairments that need little treatment and intervention to severe impairments that necessitate multidisciplinary intervention.
Autism is a lifelong disorder, regardless of severity. Even people with the mildest type of the impairment will need continual treatment and monitoring for many years.
Because there is no pharmaceutical that can treat autism specifically, physicians only give medications to treat certain symptoms. To address the autism itself, they depend on lengthy treatment.
Education and behavior therapy, in addition to medicine, may concentrate on the specific areas that younger children find the most hard.
In a classroom context, therapists who specialize in one area might help to develop social and verbal communication skills. This may assist a kid with autism in initiating and maintaining interactions with classmates and instructors, as well as transferring such abilities to other settings. All of this is done in the hopes of assisting the youngsters in learning to live independently.
Other types of treatment include the help of family members or caretakers who interact with the kid on a regular basis. Everyone involved in the process may aid those closest to the kid in comprehending the nature of the impairment and learning how to provide the most effective and productive assistance.
The Different Levels of Autism
Doctors classify autism into two groups based on symptoms: one for social impairment and the other for the limitation and repetition of particular activities. In this context, repetitive actions relate to doing the same action repeatedly, whether it’s a physical gesture or a sentence that’s spoken again. Based on the intensity of the symptoms, they give a rating of 1, 2, or 3.
These levels are referred to as “levels of support” because they assist physicians, caretakers, therapists, and parents in determining a patient’s capacity to communicate, adapt to new events or surroundings, expand their interests, and cope with the unpredictability of everyday life.
The doctor will give the appropriate levels based on the severity of the symptoms.
A proper autism diagnosis, one in which the severity levels correspond to the severity of the symptoms, may assist a treatment team in providing the most suitable care for the individual, improving the likelihood that their long-term prognosis will enable them to live the fullest possible life. Someone with severe symptoms may get only minimal care as a result of missing symptoms or misdiagnosing a level, which might complicate the ongoing therapy they will need.
Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 1
Level 1 is the least severe diagnosis of autism. Patients in the Level 1 category have certain social issues that need to be addressed.
For example, they may find it challenging to initiate or continue a conversation. They may answer incorrectly or be unable to establish eye contact with the person with whom they are conversing. This might make it difficult to form connections, get work, or even ask for aid.
People in the Level 1 tier might also exhibit “inflexible behaviors,” which means they have a hard time adapting to new settings or contexts. If they learn anything at school, they may not be able to apply what they’ve learned at home. Changes in their routine, moving to a new place, and trying new foods are all extremely difficult. These individuals will need assistance in organizing and managing their schedules.
People who have Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 1 can maintain a high-functioning level of life, requiring only minimal behavioral therapy or other forms of support. With consistent work, behavioral therapy can help Level 1 patients acquire positive and lasting behaviors that they would otherwise not be able to develop.
Although applied behavior analysis therapy is sometimes referred to as the “gold standard” of autism treatment, some doctors contend that it may not be the best option for those with Level 1 requirements. According to these specialists, it is an intense treatment that works best with children who are at Level 2 or 3. They believe that developmental or play therapy, which focuses on emotional growth, communication, and engagement, would be more beneficial to these people.
Other physicians disagree, saying that the behavioral gains afforded by ABA may assist everyone with autism.
Finally, following thorough observation and conversation with caregivers, a case-by-case choice should be taken.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 2
People with Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 2 require substantially more support than those at Level 1. These individuals have more noticeable and severe social deficits, which makes holding conversation very difficult for them.
Even if they get assistance, they will most likely be unable to talk or communicate coherently, and there is a danger that they would react or behave badly if asked a question or placed in an unfamiliar social context. Alternatively, they may not respond to social signals or interactions at all.
People with Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 2 may not be able to say more than a few words, or they might be able to talk about a few very specific topics in minute detail. Making eye contact, or even looking at the person with whom they are communicating, will be very difficult for people at this level.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 2 also brings with it inflexible behaviors that can interfere with everyday life and functions. People at this level will struggle more with changes, experiencing significant distress if something unexpected happens.
Even with support, people with Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 2 have a hard time adjusting to any kind of change in their environments.
Therapies for Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 2
The treatments utilized at Level 2 are much more diverse and complex than those employed at Level 1.
Some Level 2 people may benefit from sensory integration treatment, which teaches them how to cope with dangerous and overwhelming sensory stimuli.
The following are examples of outputs:
Patients at Level 2 may also benefit from occupational therapy, which helps them build the skills they need to complete and perform everyday chores. This is particularly beneficial for teaching people how to make their own judgments or perform job tasks.
Applied behavior analysis is more commonly used with Level 2 individuals than it is for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 1. 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.
Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 3
The most severe type of autism is diagnosed as Level 3. People in this tier have the most severe and disruptive deficits in both verbal and nonverbal communication, to the point that they avoid engaging with others if at all possible. If these people feel compelled to answer, their contacts will be restricted.
This stage of autism necessitates highly rigid and repetitive actions. People will respond to changes in a negative way, possibly resorting to violence. If they are forced to perform in a manner that forces them to shift their concentration, they may become disturbed and inconsolable.
Those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 3 require frequent, intensive therapy. Unlike Levels 1 and 2, the treatment of Level 3 will have to cover a wide range of the limitations the person has, not only communication and behavior. Those at Level 3 might also be prescribed medication as a way of managing their more dangerous and harmful symptoms
A person with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 3 will likely also need a caregiver who can work with them on a close basis, sometimes even teaching them rudimentary skills to help them at home.
ABA Therapy & Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 3
Applied behavior analysis treatment is beneficial to persons with all degrees of autism, but it is particularly beneficial to those with Level 3. It’s adaptable to any situation, making it much simpler to meet clients where they are (both physically and in terms of meeting their exact needs).
The therapy starts by creating a positive association between the client and the provider. No matter how debilitating the Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 3 is, the seeds are planted to help the client move past these limitations.
The RBT who is implementing the ABA treatment will employ assistive communication devices, which are specialized instruments that may support and improve communication for clients, independent of their speech ability or limits imposed by their autism. These techniques may help the client gain independence, improve their communication skills, and broaden their social engagement platform.
A licensed behavior technician will also know how to effectively adjust the environment for the client’s benefit. This expert understands how to use positive reinforcement and punishments to help the client progress during treatment.
The RBT will confer with the board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) who evaluated the client and created the treatment plan if the client is not progressing as expected. As required, the BCBA will develop improvements to the treatment method, which will be implemented by the RBT.
Identifying the Levels
Clinicians must conduct a range of tests to identify a person’s acceptable degree of autism. Doctors can rule out hereditary diseases or other mental health problems by looking at behavioral symptoms, communication difficulties, environmental factors, family history, and a variety of other data points. Autism cannot be diagnosed using a scan or imaging test.
Clinicians will interrogate patients and their families about their social life, as well as their everyday behavior and activities. Psychological testing will assist physicians in determining the appropriate level for the person, which will lead the therapy process.
Even then, autism levels aren’t easily categorizeable. Many individuals will not fit neatly into a Level 1, 2, or 3 diagnosis, and it is extremely feasible for a person to go from one level to the next as more is learned about their specific form of autism.
Nonetheless, the amounts are significant. They provide everyone with a starting point from which to create a treatment plan and establish realistic objectives.
Autism in Other Forms
The three stages do not represent all kinds of autism. As a spectrum condition, certain impairment manifestations may not fall neatly into these categories.
Asperger’s syndrome, which is on the milder end of the spectrum, is an example of this. Asperger’s syndrome is characterized by a high level of intellect and everyday functioning skills. They frequently have hyper-focused obsessions with certain areas and have social difficulties. Asperger’s syndrome is often misdiagnosed because its symptoms are mistaken for those of an autism spectrum condition.
Another example is atypical autism, which was formerly referred to as pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise defined (PDD-NOS). This term refers to those who have an autistic condition that is more severe than Asperger’s syndrome but not as severe as classic autistic disorder.
The Best Treatment Strategy
The level of autism a person is diagnosed with gives therapists a basic structure for their treatment approach. Someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 1 who has only mild symptoms of the disorder will receive very different treatment than someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 3 who is nonverbal.
The level of autism will influence the treatment approach, but even then, treatment plans are highly customized to the individual. For example, no two people with Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 2 will have the same treatment plan.
The good news is that treatment benefits persons with all degrees of autism. Autism is often treated with ABA treatment, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. While these treatments cannot cure autism, they may help clients learn to manage symptoms, lessen harmful behaviors, and develop skills that will benefit them in everyday life.
The “is level 2 autism high-functioning” is a question that has been asked before. The answer to this question is yes, but there are some unique treatment approaches for each level of autism.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are different treatments for autism?
A: There are many different treatments for autism, some of them include medication and speech therapy. Other treatments may be sensory based such as the use of weighted blankets or other methods to help calm those with an overactive nervous system.
What are the different levels of autism?
A: There is no scientifically established level of autism. However, according to the DSM-5, there are five levels of severity with three being classified as mild, and two moderate.
What is the best approach for autism?
A: It is hard to say what the best approach for autism is, but there are some ways that you can help your child with their development and understanding of the world. You should consider having a therapist work with them on an individual basis, as well as try out different approaches such as therapy dogs or sensory diets.
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Janice is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Special Education. She also holds a Master of Science in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) from Queen’s University, Belfast. She has worked with and case managed children and youth with autism and other intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in home and residential setting since 2013.