Written & Reviewed by
Gaston Molina
Published on
February 26, 2024

‍What is Autism?

Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects individuals in various ways. It is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors. Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning it encompasses a wide range of symptoms and levels of severity.

The Levels of Autism: An Overview

Autism is classified into three levels based on the level of support an individual requires to function in daily life. These levels are determined by assessing the severity of symptoms and the impact on social communication and behavior. The three levels of autism are Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3.

Level 1 Autism

Level 1 autism, also known as “Requiring Support,” describes individuals who require some support to navigate social situations and daily life. People with Level 1 autism may have difficulty initiating and maintaining conversations and may struggle with social interactions. However, they can typically function independently with minimal assistance.

Level 2 Autism

Level 2 autism, also known as “Requiring Substantial Support,” describes individuals who require significant support to communicate and engage in social interactions. People with Level 2 autism may have limited speech and may rely on visual aids or alternative communication methods. They may also exhibit repetitive behaviors and struggle with changes in routine.

Level 3 Autism

Level 3 autism, also known as “Requiring Very Substantial Support,” describes individuals who require extensive support in all areas of life. People with Level 3 autism have significant impairments in social communication and may have limited or no verbal language. They may require assistance with daily tasks and may exhibit severe repetitive behaviors.

How are the Levels of Autism Determined?

The levels of autism are determined through a comprehensive evaluation conducted by professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, and developmental paediatricians. This evaluation involves assessing the individual’s social communication skills, behaviour patterns, and level of independence across different settings. The evaluation may include interviews, observations, and standardized tests to gather information about the individual’s strengths and challenges.

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Common Characteristics of Each Level

Individuals with Level 1 autism often have difficulties with social interactions, such as understanding social cues, making eye contact, and initiating conversations. They may also exhibit repetitive behaviors and have a preference for routines. However, they can usually function independently in most areas of life.

In Level 2 autism, individuals may have more pronounced challenges in social communication and may struggle with understanding and expressing emotions. They may have difficulty with abstract language and may rely on visual supports to aid their understanding. Repetitive behaviors and restricted interests are more prominent at this level.

Level 3 autism is characterized by severe impairments in social communication and interaction. Individuals at this level may have limited or no verbal language and may rely on nonverbal communication methods. They may exhibit intense repetitive behaviors and have highly specialized interests.

The Challenges and Strengths Associated with Each Level

Individuals with Level 1 autism face challenges in understanding social cues and may struggle with building and maintaining relationships. However, they often possess strong attention to detail, exceptional memory, and a deep knowledge of their areas of interest. Their ability to function independently allows them to pursue education and employment opportunities successfully.

Level 2 autism presents greater challenges in social communication and behavior regulation. Individuals at this level may struggle with adaptive skills such as self-care and may require assistance with daily activities. However, they often display unique talents, such as an exceptional ability to recognize patterns or demonstrate artistic skills.

Level 3 autism poses significant challenges in all areas of life. Individuals at this level may require constant support and supervision to meet their basic needs. However, they may also possess special skills and talents, such as a remarkable memory or an exceptional ability to focus.

Understanding the Impact of the Levels on Daily life

The levels of autism have a significant impact on daily life, influencing individuals’ abilities to communicate, socialize, and navigate their environment. Individuals with Level 1 autism may face challenges in social interactions but can usually live independently and hold meaningful employment. Those with Level 2 autism may require additional support to participate in social activities and may benefit from structured environments. Individuals with Level 3 autism often require extensive support and specialized services to meet their daily needs.

Support and Resources for Individuals at Each level

Individuals with autism at all levels can benefit from various support and resources. For those with Level 1 autism, social skills training, counseling, and support groups can help enhance their social interactions and communication skills. Occupational therapy and speech therapy may be beneficial for individuals at Level 2 autism to improve their functional abilities. Individuals at Level 3 autism may require intensive interventions, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy and specialized educational programs.

The Importance of Early Intervention and Diagnosis

Early intervention and diagnosis are crucial for individuals with autism. Identifying autism early allows for timely access to interventions and support services. Early intervention programs often focus on improving communication, social skills, and adaptive behaviors. With early intervention, individuals with autism can make significant progress and achieve better outcomes in their development and overall quality of life.

Misconceptions and myths about the levels of autism

There are several misconceptions and myths surrounding the levels of autism. One common misconception is that individuals with Level 1 autism do not require any support or accommodations. In reality, they may still face challenges and benefit from understanding and acceptance. Another myth is that individuals with Level 3 autism are incapable of learning or leading fulfilling lives. This is untrue, as individuals at all levels of autism can make progress and achieve personal growth with the right support and opportunities.


Understanding the levels of autism is essential to providing appropriate support and resources to individuals on the autism spectrum. Each level represents a unique set of challenges and strengths, and it is crucial not to underestimate the capabilities of individuals with autism. By promoting awareness, acceptance, and early intervention, we can create a more inclusive society that supports and empowers individuals with autism to reach their full potential.

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