The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) describes three levels of autism spectrum disorder. Level 1 is considered to be the ‘mildest form’ of autism meaning people experience symptoms that are less disruptive to daily life than the symptoms experienced with levels 2 and 3 of autism.
Autism level 1 was previously referred to as “Asperger’s Syndrome” although the DSM-5 has now folded the diagnosis of Asperger’s into the broader category of autism spectrum disorder. Some people diagnosed with Asperger’s may still identify with this name and its diagnosis in a meaningful way, so it is important to be mindful of people’s preferences when communicating with them.
Learn more about level autism 1, its traits and behaviours, and where you can find the support you or your loved one needs to live a fulfilling life.
What is Level 1 Autism?
Level 1 is the first of the 3 recognised levels of autism. This classification system is intended to provide insight into the unique ways people with autism experience the world around them.
According to the current levels within the DSM-5 diagnostic manual, each level describes the amount of support required by the individual:
- Level 1: Requires Support
- Level 2: Requires Substantial Support
- Level 3: Requires Very Substantial Support
People with Level 1 autism often require minimal support for their daily routines. While their challenges might be less pronounced compared to individuals with higher levels of autism, it’s important to recognise that their unique experiences and needs still warrant understanding and consideration.
What is it Like Having Autism Level 1?
Individuals with level 1 autism navigate a world that can feel overwhelming and confusing at times. Level 1 is often referred to as the ‘mildest form’ of autism, but this label doesn’t fully capture the depth of the experience.
Having Level 1 autism might mean exhibiting traits that, while impactful, are generally less disruptive to daily life compared to higher levels. Social interactions, unique communication styles, and sensory sensitivities all play a role in how people with autism perceive and interact with the world around them.
Social interactions can be challenging for people with level 1 autism. Connecting with others often requires deciphering unspoken social and physical cues. People with autism frequently encounter difficulties in accurately interpreting and responding to these intricate cues and this can lead to problems with building new relationships.
The impact of sensory sensitivities on people with autism is a daily reality characterised by a heightened awareness of the world around them. Everyday experiences that might go unnoticed by others – like the gentle hum of fluorescent lights, the texture of clothing against the skin, the scent of a room – all of these seemingly trivial elements can cause sensory overload and distress in people with all levels of autism.
Autism Level 1 Traits & Behaviours
Although every individual with autism is unique and experiences their own distinct set of traits and behaviours, these are some of the behaviours typically associated with level 1 autism:
- Social Challenges: Difficulty engaging in conversations, understanding social cues and forming close friendships.
- Restricted Interests: Exhibiting repetitive behaviours or intense focus on specific topics.
- Routine Preference: Tendency to prefer structured routines and experience discomfort with unexpected changes.
- Unique Approaches: A distinct way of approaching tasks and activities, often preferring personal methods.
- Minimal Support: Generally requiring limited assistance for daily activities and routines.
- Communication Nuances: Challenges in actively participating in social interactions and conversations.
- Social Bonds: Ability to establish social connections, but friendships might be more challenging to develop and maintain.
How is Autism Level 1 Diagnosed?
In the UK, diagnosing Level 1 autism involves a thorough assessment conducted by professionals with expertise in autism diagnosis.The assessment considers various aspects of a person’s behaviour, communication, and social interactions.
Here’s a glimpse into how a typical diagnosis might unfold:
- Initial Consultation: The journey typically starts with a conversation with a GP or a paediatrician. They assess concerns and may refer the individual for a specialised evaluation.
- Specialist Assessment: Qualified specialists, such as child psychologists or developmental paediatricians, conduct a comprehensive assessment. This evaluation delves into the person’s developmental history, behaviour, communication patterns, and interactions.
- Diagnostic Tools: The assessment often involves standardised tools like the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). This structured interaction allows professionals to observe and evaluate social communication, repetitive behaviours, and play skills.
- Communication Patterns: The way an individual engages in conversations, comprehends language, and responds to social cues is carefully examined.
- Social Interactions: Specialists observe how the individual interacts with others, forming insights into their social skills and abilities.
- Behavioural Patterns: Repetitive behaviours, specific interests, and adherence to routines are assessed to better understand their impact.
- Feedback and Diagnosis: Based on the assessment outcomes, the specialist provides feedback and discusses the diagnosis with the individual or their support system.
- Individualised Support: Post-diagnosis, individuals are often directed towards appropriate support services, therapies, and interventions that cater to their specific needs.
What Support is Available for Autism Level 1?
There are a range of support services and resources available in the UK to help people with autism and their families. Whether it’s early intervention, educational guidance, or therapeutic assistance, there are many resources that cater to various needs:
- Early Intervention Services: Early support is critical. Services like speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioural interventions are available to help children develop essential skills during their formative years.
- NHS Support: The NHS provides a wealth of services, including speech and language therapy. Learn more about getting an autism diagnosis from the NHS.
- Educational Support: Schools can collaborate with families to create Individual Education Plans (IEPs) that tailor education to the unique needs of children with autism.
- Social Skills Programmes: Various organisations offer social skills training and groups that help individuals with autism improve their social interactions and navigate social situations. You can find many useful resources here.
- Therapies: Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), a well-established therapy, and other therapies like sensory integration therapy, are accessible to provide specialised assistance.
- Support Groups: Numerous support groups, both in-person and online, connect individuals and families, fostering a sense of community and sharing experiences. The National Autistic Society is a good place to start.
- Advocacy Organisations: Various charities and advocacy groups are dedicated to raising awareness, providing information, and lobbying for policy changes to enhance autism support. Choices Advocacy offers free independent advocacy services.
- Residential and Independent Living Support: For adults, services range from supported living accommodations to assistance in developing life skills required for independence. Learn more about Liaise specialist autism support services.
Specialist Support for Autism
At Liaise, we provide personal, progressive and person-centred autism support designed to empower people to live richer lives.
Our community based homes are so much more than a place to live. Our dedicated staff work hard to foster safe and welcoming environments that encourage independence and living life to the full.
In these inclusive communities, people with autism live life on their own terms while knowing a helping hand is always available. We offer a range of thoughtful services and activities that promote not only self-confidence and independence but fun and joyfulness as well.
Learn more about how supported living for autism or residential care for autism can help you and your family.
We are here to support you every step of the way. If you would like to learn more about our autism care and support services, do not hesitate to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you.