Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 1 Symptoms

Explore autism spectrum disorder level 1 symptoms, from social challenges to sensory differences.

judah schiller
Judah Schiller
May 27, 2024
Published On
May 27, 2024

Getting to Know Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), often just called autism, is a neurodevelopmental condition that comes with a mix of symptoms and severity levels. This article zooms in on Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder symptoms.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism is a term for a group of conditions that affect brain development. These conditions show up as challenges in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors. It's called a "spectrum" because it affects everyone differently.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) breaks autism into levels 1, 2, or 3 based on how much support someone needs in two areas: social communication and repetitive behaviors. Level 1 means "needs support," Level 2 means "needs substantial support," and Level 3 means "needs very substantial support."

How is Autism Diagnosed?

The DSM-5 lays out the criteria for diagnosing autism. To get an autism diagnosis, someone must show symptoms in two main areas:

  1. Social Communication and Interaction:
    • Trouble with social-emotional give-and-take.
    • Problems with nonverbal communication.
    • Difficulty making and keeping relationships.
  2. Repetitive Behaviors and Interests:
    • Repetitive movements, use of objects, or speech.
    • Need for routines and resistance to change.
    • Intense, focused interests.
    • Unusual reactions to sensory input.

For Level 1 Autism, a person might need some help with social interactions and have repetitive behaviors that interfere with daily life.

Levels of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism varies a lot from person to person. The DSM-5 categorizes it into three levels based on how much support someone needs.

Level 1: Needs Support

People at this level need some help. They might have trouble starting social interactions and need assistance to make friends. Even with help, they might struggle to keep a conversation going.

Level 2: Needs Substantial Support

These individuals need more help than those at Level 1. They have significant challenges with social communication and may find it hard to adapt their behavior to different social situations. They often have inflexible behaviors and struggle with change.

Level 3: Needs Very Substantial Support

This is the most severe level. People at Level 3 have major difficulties with social communication and may show repetitive or restrictive behaviors. They need a lot of support to handle daily life and often have extreme difficulty with change.

Autism Level Support Needed Social Challenges Behavioral Patterns
Level 1 Some Support Trouble starting social interactions, keeping a conversation Issues with social-emotional give-and-take, nonverbal communication
Level 2 Substantial Support Big challenges with verbal and nonverbal communication, inflexible behavior Struggles with change
Level 3 Very Substantial Support Severe social communication issues, trouble with change Repetitive or restrictive behaviors

Support needs can change over time and in different situations. Early intervention can make a big difference.

Social Communication Challenges in Autism

Social communication involves skills that most people pick up naturally, but those with autism might need extra help. Let's look at the social communication and language issues linked to Level 1 autism.

Social Communication Difficulties

People with Level 1 autism might need help making friends or interacting socially. They might struggle with:

  1. Starting Social Interactions: Finding it hard to approach others or start a conversation.
  2. Responding to Social Interactions: Not responding to others' social cues, which can seem like indifference.
  3. Understanding and Using Gestures: Having trouble with body language, facial expressions, and hand gestures.

Language and Communication Traits

Even those who speak fluently can have language and communication challenges, such as:

  1. Pragmatic Language: Struggling with the social rules of language, like taking turns in conversation.
  2. Literal Interpretation: Having trouble understanding idioms, jokes, or figures of speech.
  3. Repetitive Language: Repeating words or phrases, or speaking in a formal way that's unusual for their age.

These traits can vary by age and person, but understanding them can help provide the right support.

Restricted and Repetitive Behaviors in Autism

Repetitive behaviors are a key sign of autism. Understanding these behaviors can help us better support those on the spectrum.

Types of Repetitive Behaviors

Autistic people show a range of repetitive behaviors, from verbal repetitions to physical actions like rocking or pacing. These behaviors fall into two groups:

  • Lower-Order Behaviors: Involving body movement, like fidgeting or hand-flapping.
  • Higher-Order Behaviors: Involving a need for sameness, routines, and intense interests.

Impact of Repetitive Behaviors

These behaviors can help autistic people self-calm but can also interfere with daily life. The impact depends on the behavior's intensity and frequency. For example, a strong focus on certain interests can limit activities, and repetitive motor actions can affect social interactions.

Understanding these behaviors is key to developing effective support strategies.

Evidence-Based Practices for Autism

Managing autism symptoms involves using evidence-based practices (EBPs). These are proven strategies for helping those with autism.

What Are Evidence-Based Practices?

Federal laws require educators to use EBPs for children with autism. The National Professional Development Center (NPDC) on Autism Spectrum Disorder lists 27 EBPs, including visual supports and social skills training.

Educators should choose EBPs that fit a child's unique needs and adjust them as needed.

Data Collection and Evaluation

Tracking a child's behavior helps evaluate the effectiveness of EBPs. This involves monitoring progress and adjusting interventions to meet the child's needs.

Using EBPs and regular evaluation can help children with autism reach their full potential.

Sensory Differences in Autism

Sensory differences are a key part of autism. These can include being overly sensitive or not sensitive enough to sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, balance, and body awareness.

Sensory Overload

Sensory overload is common in autism and can cause stress, anxiety, and physical pain. Small changes to the environment can help.

For example, someone sensitive to sound might find noise overwhelming and struggle to concentrate.

Managing Sensory Differences

Understanding and managing sensory differences is crucial. For example, those sensitive to touch might find it painful, affecting their relationships and daily activities. Strategies like giving a warning before touch can help.

Recognizing and addressing sensory differences can greatly improve the quality of life for those with autism.


[1]: Medical News Today

[2]: Indiana University

[3]: Indiana University

[4]: Verywell Health

[5]: NCBI

[6]: Vanderbilt University

[7]: National Autistic Society