The people you are seeing describe their loved ones’ autism as a “level 2” or similar may be using a different classification system or language than what is commonly used in your area. In the DSM-5, the diagnostic manual used by mental health professionals in the United States, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is not divided into levels or subtypes. Instead, ASD is diagnosed based on specific behaviors and difficulties, such as difficulty with social interaction, communication, and repetitive or restrictive behaviors.
It’s also important to note that individuals with ASD can have a wide range of abilities, challenges, and needs, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to diagnosis or treatment. Some people with ASD may have severe difficulties with communication and social interaction and require significant support in their daily lives. In contrast, others may have milder symptoms and can function independently.
If you have concerns about your loved ones’ autism diagnoses, it may be helpful to speak with their healthcare provider or a mental health professional. They can provide more information about the specific diagnosis and relevant treatment recommendations.
The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition) lists the following behaviors and difficulties as diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD):
- Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or historically:
- Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, such as difficulty initiating or responding to social interactions or a lack of social or emotional responsiveness
- Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, such as eye contact, facial expression, and body language
- Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships
- Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, as manifested by at least two of the following, currently or historically:
- Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech
- Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior
- Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus.
- Hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment
To meet the diagnostic criteria for ASD, an individual must also have symptoms present in the early developmental period (typically recognized in the first two years of life) and must show clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.
It’s important to note that the presence and severity of these behaviors and difficulties can vary widely among individuals with ASD. Some people with ASD may have severe deficits in social communication and interaction and require significant support in their daily lives. In contrast, others may have milder symptoms and can function independently.