Understanding the 3 Levels of Autism

signs of autism in infants

There are three different levels that are associated with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and they are defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition ( DSM-5).

signs of autism in infants

Every person suffering from ASD is also diagnosed as having either ASD levels 1, 2 or level 3 based on how severe the disorder is and the amount of assistance they require to live their lives. 1

The levels range from mild to the most severe and include ASD level 3 being a person with the highest degree of ASD symptoms as well as ASD Level 1 describes someone who is at the lower end of the spectrum.

This article examines the symptoms that are common to all one of three ASD levels. The article also provides real-life examples of strengths and weaknesses which are unique to each level.

Autism Spectrum Levels

Autism spectrum disorders affect the way a person behaves, learns, and communicates. While people who suffer from ASD are able to share some the symptoms, every person is unique, and has their own strengths and weaknesses.

Three levels in ASD aid doctors in prescribing appropriate treatments that meet the particular requirements that their patients have. These treatments can help those who suffers from ASD get the most out of their strengths and enhance their language, social and behavioral skills.

Parents of children who suffers from ASD Knowing the level the child is at will aid in preparing for the different problems their child could encounter in their daily lives.

The earlier version of DSM, called the DSM-4 classified autistic spectrums into 5 distinct diagnosis that range in severity from asperger’s disorder (often employed to refer to the mild form of as well as excessively functioning autism) to autistic disorders that indicates extreme autism. 2

The DSM-5 Combines all of them into a one diagnosis of ASD however, with various degrees of severity.

Level 1: Requires Support

ASD Level 1. ASD is the least severe, and the least “high-functioning,” form of autism. Children who have the level 1 ASD are unable to communicating with others in a way that is appropriate. 

For instance, they might not be able to say the right thing at the appropriate time or be able to recognize social clues or body expressions.

A person who has ASD stage 1 typically is proficient in speaking in complete sentences and speak, but struggles to participate in back and forth conversations with other people. 

They may attempt to meet new people however, they may not be success. 

They might also be having difficulty transitioning from one activity another or trying out new activities. They may also be struggling in planning and organization, which could hinder the them from becoming as self-sufficient as others of their older. 

signs of autism in infants

Level 2: Requires Substantial Support

Individuals who suffer from ASD Level 2 experience more evident issues in social and verbal communication than those who are diagnosed with level 1. In addition, they may have a harder time changing direction or switch from one thing from one activity to another.

Children at the level 2 are likely to have very limited pursuits and are prone to repetitive behavior which can make it difficult to be effective in certain circumstances. 3 For instance, they could walk between two places or repeat the same thing repeatedly time.

A person who is diagnosed by ASD level 2 is able to communicate in simple sentences. They is also unable to communicate using non-verbal ways of communicating. 3

Level 3: Requires Very Substantial Support

The level 3 category is considered to be the severest type of autism. Children who fall into this category are likely to exhibit the same behavior patterns as those who have levels 1 and 2 however to an even greater degree.

Troubles in communicating orally and nonverbally can make it difficult to function, communicate socially and cope with changes in location or focus. Repetitive behavior is another indication of level 3. ASD. 

A person who has ASD stage 3 has a restricted ability to communicate clearly. They are not likely to initiate conversations with others. 

If it comes to doing so, the person be awkward in their interactions. Level 3 people will also react only to specific social requests from others. 

Limitations of ASD Levels

While the ASD levels are helpful in diagnosing severity of autism and supporting requirements, the levels do not provide a complete picture about the advantages and weaknesses at each stage.

The three levels aren’t completely inclusive of the signs and needs of all individuals who suffer from autism. The DSM-5 does not provide any specific information on the kinds of support individuals require or in what situations the need for support arises.

For instance, some individuals who have ASD require help at school , but they are well-behaved at home, whereas others can do fine at school, but struggle with social situations.

Furthermore, the level an individual is placed at when they’re first diagnosed could change as they improve and develop their social abilities, as well when depression, anxiety or other problems that are common to those with autism alter or get more serious.

Affixing individuals on the spectrum of Autism could help in determining what kind of support and services are most appropriate for their needs.

It’s not able to be able to predict or take into account particular aspects of their personality and behavior. This means the services and support they receive will have to be highly personalized.


The DSM-5 is a key guideline used by doctors to determine if a person has autism spectrum disorders. 

It outlines three different levels of ASD that vary in severity, and the amount of help an individual suffering from ASD requires in their daily lives.

Three ASD levels offer a general outline of the issues that a person who has ASD could face when it comes to communication, socialization, or being a person. 

This method of identifying people with ASD is not necessarily address the variety of requirements that individuals with autism face.

A Word From Verywell

A lot of articles on the internet about autism are focused on children who suffer from ASD, however adults suffering from ASD typically require some form of support too. 

Transitioning to fully independent adult is difficult for people who have ASD as well as their families, particularly as their needs evolve.

If you know someone who has ASD It is important to be aware of the needs of those with ASD and encourage their strengths, no matter what age they’re at.

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