Levels of autism spectrum disorder are covered in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The division of autism levels will help the family be more aware of the child’s health status and the patient also better understand their own strengths and limitations.
Levels of autism spectrum disorder
Autism spectrum disorders (autism) are classified into several different categories. This disease is classified based on many factors such as the time of disease, intelligence quotient (IQ) and degree. In particular, the classification of autism by degree is most commonly used today because it can help families understand their role in supporting children with autism.
Levels of autism spectrum disorder are covered in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Levels are divided based on the child’s strengths and limitations in aspects such as daily life management, ability to adapt to new environments, communication ability, etc.
Through grading the severity of autism spectrum disorder, families will gain a better understanding of the individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Thereby, there is a plan of care and intervention with appropriate therapeutic methods for each level. According to the DSM-5, autism spectrum disorders are divided into three levels:
Mild autism often occurs in children with Asperger’s syndrome, also known as high-functioning autism. Most children with mild autism still have language skills, can communicate and speak in full sentences, but still have many difficulties in communication. For example, children have difficulty finding the right words, sentences do not fit the context, and cannot understand body language.
Children with mild autism can still make good eye contact – especially with family members. However, when meeting strangers, the child’s ability to communicate will be limited. Therefore, children with mild autism will have difficulty making friends and expanding relationships.
Because they are “highly functional,” children can learn, play, and participate in age-appropriate activities. However, due to limited communication and social interaction, children still need considerable support from their families.
Moderate autism is defined when the child is still able to make good eye contact with family members. However, the ability to communicate is relatively limited when talking to outsiders, ambiguous words, messy sentence arrangements and inappropriate words. In addition, children also have difficulty understanding and using nonverbal communication.
Children with moderate autism have difficulty changing focus and clearly show discomfort when switching from one activity to another. Children have limited interests, often with definite, repetitive actions or interests.
People with moderate autism have significant impairments in their ability to communicate, think, behave, feel, and interact socially. Therefore, at this level, children need significant support from the family in learning and living.
Severe autism is defined when the child cannot make eye contact, cannot communicate with outsiders, and is almost unable to speak. The defects of children with severe autism will be more serious than the two above levels.
Children with severe autism have almost no need to interact with those around them, their speech is obscure, and often only speak single words. Poor social interaction, not knowing how to make friends, and often immersed in their own world.
How are levels of autism spectrum disorder determined?
Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder, so most of the time there is no physical damage. Diagnosis of this disease is mainly based on clinical symptoms. In addition, the doctor may also perform some laboratory tests to rule out other possible conditions such as epilepsy, hearing loss, thyroid dysfunction, etc.
To determine the degree of autism, doctors will use the CARS (Childhood Autism Rating Scale) autism scale. This scale includes 15 items and each item will have 4 levels to choose from, corresponding to a score from 1 to 4. After completing the scale, the doctor will add the score to determine the degree of spectrum disorder. autism.
Limitations when dividing autism spectrum disorder into levels
The division of autism spectrum disorder into levels helps families and patients better understand their strengths and weaknesses. Thereby, there is a way to care and intervene with appropriate educational and therapeutic methods. However, the classification of autism spectrum disorders by degree is not really comprehensive and still subjective.
So in addition to the degree classification, some doctors use other classifications such as:
Classification by time of autism:
- Typical autism (congenital autism): Typical autism is defined if symptoms appear within the first 3 years of life.
- Atypical autism (acquired autism): Autistic symptoms appear after the first 3 years of life and in the first 3 years, the child has normal communication and language development. Over time, children will have a decline in language and communication.
Sort by intelligence:
- Autism has a high IQ and can speak: Children with this form of autism usually have a good prognosis and can learn normally if they receive proper treatment. Children rarely have negative behaviors but are often passive, tend to be obsessive, and learn to read early (about 2-3 years old). As adults, children have good perceptions and behaviors are also changed in a more positive direction.
- Autism has a high IQ and does not speak: These children are often overly sensitive to sounds, have good visual skills, and can communicate but have low communication needs. Children with autism who have a high IQ and do not speak often have stubborn personalities, prefer to be alone, and have poor social interactions.
- Autism has a low IQ and can speak: Children with this type of autism have the most negative behavior of all forms of autism. Children are aggressive, yelling, hyperactive, and sometimes self-aggressive. Poor concentration, often repeating other people’s words, but the words are incomplete and unclear. Because of low IQ, children’s memory is often poor.
- Autism has a low IQ and cannot speak: Children with this type of autism are often detected early because their symptoms are very obvious. Children often do not speak or only say a few simple words without thinking. Children sit still and stare at an object for long periods of time, move little, and show interest in mechanical toys. Absolutely no connection to others, no social skills and sensitivity to sound.
Overall, autistic classification is of great help in treating and supporting families to recognize their role in their child with autism. However, each classification method will have certain advantages and limitations. Therefore, the doctor will be flexible to use the appropriate classification in each case.
The above is information about the levels of autism spectrum disorder. When taking the child to the doctor, the family can talk to the doctor about the extent of the disease to better understand the child’s strengths and limitations. Thereby planning appropriate care and education to help children improve their social skills and be able to live independently.