What do you need to know about Autism Spectrum Disorder?

By Alexa Van Os

What is ASD?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a life-long condition that affects how a person thinks, feels, interacts with others, and experiences their environment. People with Autism often have challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, and a need for sameness, and can struggle with verbal and nonverbal communication. Each individual with Autism is different from one another which is why it is a spectrum, and there is no one type of Autism! While it may make life more challenging, with the right support people with Autism can achieve a great quality of life!

It is most helpful to recognize signs of ASD early on in life so that you can seek the right treatment. Because Autism is a spectrum, individuals vary in their symptoms and diagnosis can vary. However, medical professionals categorize ASD into 3 levels.

Level 1: High Functioning Autism

Level 1 ASD is the mildest form; however, it still requires support. Individuals with level one Autism have difficulty initiating social interactions and communicating appropriately. They also have difficulty switching activities or routines, and often have problems with organization. 

Level 2: Autism

People with level 2 ASD have more difficulty with verbal and social communication than those diagnosed with level 1 ASD. They also find it harder to change between activities and have very narrow interests. They also may engage in repetitive behaviors, such as walking back and forth or moving their arms in a certain way, which makes social interaction even more challenging. Individuals with level 2 ASD require substantial support from professionals, as well as family and friends

Level 3: Severe Autism

Level 3 ASD is the most severe form of Autism, and requires very substantial support. They have many of the same behaviors as those in levels 1 and 2 but to a more extreme degree. People with level 3 ASD have difficulty expressing themselves verbally and nonverbally. 

While this categorization into levels is helpful, it is important to remember that it does not fully address the diverse needs people with autism have. It is best to seek help, and develop an individualized support plan.

How to support people with Autism?

  • It is important to remain patient and understanding whenever you can
  • Consider their behavior in terms of their autism, not individual personality, even if the behavior is challenging
  • Educate yourself on their potential challenges, and accommodate them as best as you can

Being a family member, friend, or primary caregiver of someone with ASD can be emotionally and physically draining. If you are feeling lost, burnt out, or stressed try to find a support group that can help you feel not alone. Seek professional help from a therapist if you are experiencing more severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, etc.