Can Level 3 Autism Be Cured

Explore if level 3 autism can be cured, understanding treatment options, and enhancing quality of life.

judah schiller
Judah Schiller
June 3, 2024
Published On
June 3, 2024

Understanding Autism Treatment

Autism treatment serves to help individuals manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. It revolves around two major elements: the importance of early intervention and the necessity for tailored treatment approaches.

Importance of Early Intervention

Early diagnosis and intervention, particularly during preschool or earlier, have been found to have a significant positive impact on the symptoms and future skills of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) NICHD. The sooner a child with ASD begins treatment, the better their prognosis tends to be. Early intervention can lead to more children attending school in typical classrooms and living semi-independently in community settings Golden Steps ABA.

Tailored Treatment Approaches

While there is currently no cure for level 3 autism or any level of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), there are various treatment approaches that can help manage symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals with ASD Golden Steps ABA. These treatments include behavior therapy, speech-language therapy, play-based therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and nutritional therapy HelpGuide.org.

Each individual with ASD is unique and thus requires a tailored treatment approach that caters to their specific array of symptoms and needs. Often, a combined treatment approach that incorporates several different types of therapy is required. These therapies can be adjusted over time to meet the changing needs of the individual, ensuring that they continue to receive the support they need throughout their life.

Levels of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by a wide range of symptoms and severity levels. It's important to understand that autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that each individual with autism has a unique set of strengths and challenges. The severity of ASD is often categorized into three levels, each requiring different levels of support.

Level 1: Requiring Minimal Support

Individuals with level 1 ASD, often referred to as high-functioning autism, may need minimal support in their daily lives. They often have difficulties in social situations, difficulty initiating social interactions, and may demonstrate repetitive behavior. However, with appropriate support and interventions, they can lead independent lives.

Level 2: Requiring Substantial Support

Level 2 ASD is characterized by more substantial difficulties in social interactions, communication, and behavior. Individuals at this level may require more consistent support in their daily lives. They may have trouble understanding and responding to social cues and may engage in repetitive behaviors. Support strategies for individuals at this level often include structured interventions and consistent routines.

Level 3: Requiring Very Substantial Support

Level 3 autism represents the most severe end of the spectrum. Individuals diagnosed with Level 3 autism require substantial support due to severe symptoms, including challenges in communication, social interaction, handling change, engaging in repetitive behaviors, and experiencing sensory dysfunction, cognitive impairment, and physical symptoms like sleeplessness, epilepsy, and gastrointestinal issues.

These individuals exhibit severe deficits in both verbal and nonverbal communication skills. They may have limited or no functional speech, relying on alternative forms of communication such as gestures, pictures, or augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices. Social interactions can be challenging for individuals at this level, as they may struggle to understand social cues, maintain eye contact, or engage in reciprocal conversation [2].

Repetitive behaviors and restricted interests are common characteristics of level 3 autism. These behaviors may include repetitive body movements, intense focus on specific topics, adherence to rigid routines, and resistance to changes in their environment or daily routines. Sensory sensitivities, such as aversion to certain sounds, textures, or lights, may also be present in individuals at this level of the autism spectrum [2].

Individuals at this level often require very substantial support, including targeted interventions to help manage their symptoms. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, for example, is one of the most widely used and effective interventions for individuals with autism, including those with severe symptoms associated with level 3 autism [2].

It's crucial to remember that the severity levels of autism are not fixed and can change over time with appropriate interventions and support. Understanding these levels helps provide a framework for planning individualized treatment strategies and support for each person with autism.

Challenges Faced in Level 3 Autism

Individuals diagnosed with level 3 autism, often referred to as those with high support needs, face a myriad of challenges that can be broadly categorized into communication difficulties and repetitive behaviors coupled with sensory sensitivities.

Communication Difficulties

Communication can be particularly challenging for individuals with level 3 autism. Many of these individuals may be nonverbal or entirely unable to use spoken language, creating significant barriers for social interaction [3]. Additionally, these individuals often have low to very low IQs, even when tested using non-verbal testing tools.

Despite these challenges, it's important to note that communication is not impossible for individuals with high support needs. With patience and appropriate tools, they can learn to communicate using alternative methods such as sign language, spelling boards, or augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices [3].

Repetitive Behaviors and Sensory Sensitivities

Individuals with level 3 autism may also engage in intense and uncontrollable repetitive behaviors such as violently rocking, door slamming, and moaning [3]. These behaviors, which significantly differ from neurotypical behaviors, are forms of stimming used by autistic individuals to regulate themselves internally.

In addition to these behaviors, individuals with high support needs may also exhibit behaviors such as self-injury (e.g., head-banging, pica) and aggression (e.g., hitting, biting, kicking). These behaviors can stem from frustration, sensory overload, or physical pain.

Further compounding these challenges, individuals with level 3 autism may struggle with sensory processing issues. They may find crowded, bright, or noisy environments overwhelming. The sensory sensitivities can significantly impact their ability to interact with their surroundings and participate in day-to-day activities.

The challenges faced by individuals with level 3 autism underscore the importance of early intervention and tailored treatment approaches. With appropriate support and understanding, these individuals can learn to manage their symptoms and enhance their quality of life.

Treatment Options for Level 3 Autism

While the question "can level 3 autism be cured" does not have a straightforward answer, there are numerous therapy options that can significantly enhance the quality of life of individuals with level 3 autism. Two effective interventions include Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy and Speech and Language therapy.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy

ABA therapy is one of the most widely-used and effective interventions for individuals with autism, including those with severe symptoms associated with level 3 autism. This evidence-based approach aims to increase positive behaviors while reducing challenging ones by breaking them down into smaller, manageable steps. According to ABTABA, ABA therapy focuses on understanding and modifying behaviors, which can result in significant improvements in autonomy and quality of life.

There are multiple types of ABA therapy, including:

  1. Early Start Denver Model (ESDM): This approach works best for 12- to 48-month-olds and follows the practices of ABA. ESDM focuses on creating positive social interactions, enhancing communication, and cognitive skills. Studies suggest that ESDM improves language and communication skills as well as adaptive behavior.
  2. Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT): A play-based approach that focuses on broader areas such as motivation, self-management, response to multiple cues, and initiation of social interactions. PRT helps children make broad improvements with social skills and communication, and studies suggest that it can be effective at building communication skills in children [4].

While each type of ABA therapy has its unique aspects, they all aim to encourage desired behaviors and reduce unwanted behaviors. Long-term, intensive therapy using ABA can improve a child's life skills, intellectual abilities, and social skills, as reported by HelpGuide.org.

Speech and Language Therapy

Speech and Language therapy plays a vital role in treating level 3 autism, as individuals with this autism level often face significant communication difficulties. This therapy aims to enhance an individual's ability to communicate effectively, thereby improving their social skills and interactions.

The therapy involves strategies to improve verbal, nonverbal, and social communication. The specific approach can be tailored to the individual's needs, and may involve picture exchange communication systems, sign language, or speech-generating devices. The goal is to give the individual a way to communicate their needs and desires, thereby reducing frustration and increasing social interaction.

While these therapies may not completely cure level 3 autism, they can lead to significant improvements in autonomy, social interaction, and overall quality of life for individuals with ASD [1]. The key is early and consistent intervention, tailored to the individual's needs and abilities.

Improving Quality of Life

While the question "can level 3 autism be cured" may not have a definitive answer, it is important to focus on the strategies and interventions that can help improve the quality of life of individuals with this condition. This involves both enhancing social skills and managing challenging behaviors.

Enhancing Social Skills

Individuals with level 3 autism exhibit severe deficits in both verbal and nonverbal communication skills. They may have limited or no functional speech, and rely on alternative forms of communication such as gestures, pictures, or augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices. Social interactions can be challenging for individuals at this level, as they may struggle to understand social cues, maintain eye contact, or engage in reciprocal conversation [2].

Interventions aimed at improving social skills can enhance their ability to communicate and interact with others. These may include social skills training, role-playing exercises, and other therapeutic activities designed to improve their understanding of social cues and norms. With consistent practice and support, these individuals can learn to engage in more meaningful social interactions, which can greatly enhance their quality of life.

Managing Challenging Behaviors

Individuals with level 3 autism often engage in intense and uncontrollable repetitive behaviors, such as violently rocking, door slamming, and moaning, which can be challenging to manage. Other common behavioral challenges include aggression, self-injury, and wandering, particularly among those with high support needs, which may require quick and effective responses to ensure safety.

Behavioral interventions can help manage these challenging behaviors and promote more adaptive responses. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, for instance, uses positive reinforcement and other strategies to encourage positive behaviors and reduce harmful or disruptive ones. Other strategies may include creating a predictable and structured environment, using visual schedules, and incorporating sensory-friendly activities to help manage sensory sensitivities.

It's important to remember that while challenging behaviors can be difficult to manage, they are often a form of communication for individuals with autism. Understanding the underlying causes of these behaviors can help in developing effective strategies to manage them.

Improving the quality of life of individuals with level 3 autism involves a multidimensional approach, focusing not only on addressing the core symptoms of autism, but also on promoting overall well-being and quality of life. With appropriate interventions and continued support, individuals with level 3 autism can learn and develop skills that can significantly improve their daily functioning and quality of life.

References

[1]: https://www.goldenstepsaba.com/resources/can-level-three-autism-be-cured

[2]: https://www.abtaba.com/blog/level-3-autism-be-cured

[3]: https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-severe-autism-260044

[4]: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/autism-learning-disabilities/autism-treatments-therapies-interventions.htm

[5]: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352934