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The 3 Levels Of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder with less severity in each stage, but with the most severe symptoms occurring at the upper end.

The three levels of autism are:

  1. Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)
  2. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)
  3. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The latter two stages are not usually diagnosed until after age 3 or 4 years old when key developmental milestones have not been met. However, RAD can be detected by signs present shortly after birth. At this time, there has been little research about what causes ASD. Researchers generally agree that it results from some combination of genetic and environmental factors, which may include viruses during pregnancy, drug use by the mother, complications at birth, or too little oxygen.

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At this time, there is no cure for autism spectrum disorder since it is not a disease. However, many behavioral intervention methods are used to help children learn how to cope with their disability and become independent adults. These behavioral interventions are usually very successful in teaching the child appropriate behavior. Children may get into trouble because of a lack of traditional parenting skills that are needed to deal with an autistic child’s special needs. It’s often hard for parents to understand why a child will not communicate with them verbally when he has shown signs of being intelligent before his diagnosis at age 2 or 3 years old. Parents have difficulty knowing what kind of discipline will be effective without being too strict. Thus, they may need more information on how to treat their autistic child without harming the relationship they have with him.


Parents of children who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder often feel isolated, alone, or shunned by parents of typically developing peers. They may be surprised by these responses because they thought that other parents would understand better than anyone what it is like to raise a child with ASD. Other parents often avoid the topic, feeling uncomfortable around it and not knowing what to say or do about it. However, this kind of reaction can make parents of an autistic child feel excluded and alienated from their peer group; consequently, social isolation becomes a concern for them. Fortunately, there are support groups available that can provide advice on dealing with behavioral problems common in autistic children. These groups are good places for parents to meet others who have the same daily challenges. One of these common problems is waking up in the middle of the night because their child doesn’t sleep through the night like other children. They will discuss how hard it can be for them when other families are enjoying their vacation while they worry about what they’ll do if their child wakes up and starts screaming at 3:00 A.M. Other families may say that they frequently look forward to visits from over-night guests as a break from constantly having to accommodate their child’s sleep issues, as well as an escape from their own exhaustion as a result of dealing with ASD all day long.


The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 1 out of every 88 children is diagnosed with ASD. Boys are four times more likely than girls to be diagnosed. ASD can appear as early as age 2 years or as late as age 4 or 5 years, but the average age is around 3 years old. Some children who have been previously diagnosed with RAD show signs of autistic symptoms later in life. In addition to problems with communication and behavior, some children also have sensory issues such as being under-sensitive or over-sensitive to touch, sight, smell, taste, or sound.


Autism spectrum disorder varies from person to person depending on how much a child has adapted his behaviors according to what he has learned from those around him and which coping he has developed for dealing with things that he can not comprehend. In mild cases, children learn to communicate with their peers and make friends as they grow up. The child may still have difficulties dealing with his sensory issues, but it will be much easier for him to fit into a social group because he understands how human interaction works. It is much more difficult for a child who has severe autism spectrum disorder to fit into a social group. He ends up feeling isolated from his family and others because of communication barriers that are hard for other people to understand or appreciate since it’s harder for them than it is for the autistic child.


There are three levels of ASD: mild, moderate, and severe, which psychologists use when diagnosing children on the autism spectrum. Mild autism involves symptoms such as poor eye contact, lack of affect (mood or emotion), and a slower rate of language development. Moderate autism involves the same symptoms as mild autism, but in addition, there is a problem with non-verbal communication such as social cues and gestures. And severe autism involves all of the above plus problems coping with change and extreme difficulty communicating even basic needs and desires.

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Asperger’s syndrome is a form of ASD that focuses mainly on how autistics communicate rather than what they understand about their environments. People with this condition don’t necessarily have cognitive delays — most are only slightly below or above average when it comes to intelligence — but they may need speech therapy to learn grammar rules correctly, especially in certain areas such as pronouns, prepositions, or verbs conjugation.


Someone with Asperger’s syndrome can learn to read and write, but he may struggle in most other subjects such as history and math because of the way his brain processes information. He will pay attention mostly to what interests him or might be considered important such as sports statistics, weather reports, or trivia about a subject that fascinates him, like cars or airplanes, instead of learning things which aren’t so influential on his life, such as geography. Some autistics with this condition also have trouble making close friends since they lack empathy and tend to only focus on themselves and their own needs and desires rather than others’ feelings or thoughts.

“Sensory problems are hard for people who don’t understand autism spectrum disorder to grasp.”

Sensory problems are hard for people who don’t understand autism spectrum disorder to grasp. For instance, an autistic child might be under-sensitive or over-sensitive to touch, sight, smell, taste, or sound. This can make things like sitting still in class difficult because the room is too cold, or it may make brushing hair unbearably painful because of how sensitive certain areas are. Other children only focus on one sense at a time which makes socializing with other human beings awkward or sometimes even impossible since they can not hear what another person is saying while their vision is blocked by someone standing in front of them during lunch hour. Children who cope with all four senses and understand that’ experience them in different ways often suffer from sensory overload when they are in a setting which has all of these factors present, like at the movies or in an auditorium.


Some autistics with this condition also have trouble speaking because their brains cannot process language properly. This is why many kids with Asperger’s typically either learn to read before learning how to talk or develop speech only after reading enough books that they’ve increased their vocabularies and can expand on what another person says by adding details to it.

“What you need to know about verbal speech disorders.”

Oftentimes people who do not understand autism spectrum disorder think that the inability to speak is the main symptom of this condition when that is actually not necessarily the case. It is true that most autistics have trouble communicating verbally with other human beings, but not all of them do. In fact, some can speak fluently and only have problems with their receptive language, which is the understanding of what someone else says to them. Those who have a processing disorder typically have trouble making their speech understandable because they’re having a hard time figuring out the right words to use or stringing together a sentence that makes sense in a conversation.

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Every person on the autism spectrum has a different verbal speech disorder. Some sound like they are speaking another language, such as Spanish or German, while others repeat verbatim what someone else says to them with no extra information added if it isn’t requested by the listener. The latter is often how non-verbal children with autism spectrum disorder communicate, and it can be confusing to someone who’s never had a conversation like this before. Some autistics also mumble or talk in a monotone voice while others stutter, speak too fast or use words that are out of context, such as “watermelon” when they’re talking about what kind of juice they want to drink instead of using the word “juice,” which is what the listener was anticipating hearing them say.


People who have verbal speech disorders can learn appropriate words and phrases through speech therapy since these challenges typically only last throughout childhood and do not follow an autistic into adulthood unless he has some other comorbid disorder along with it such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or another language-based disorder such as Rett’s Syndrome.


But what if confusing communication is not the problem? What if no verbal speech issues exist and yet someone on the autism spectrum has trouble communicating? That is a slightly different issue to address, and it can be somewhat hard for an autist with this condition to figure out how he wants others to help him communicate when he does not know how to tell them that they need to do something differently or actually cannot tell them directly at all. An example of this would be a child who uses echolalia, which is when a person repeats verbatim everything that someone else says to him instead of using those words in a sentence himself by expanding upon meaning. This can be a rather confusing way to talk, especially if an autistic repeats something over and over even when it is not asked of him, or the listener starts talking about something else because he thinks that’s what the speaker wants from him.

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Obviously, this is a difficult challenge for someone with autism to face along with all of his other challenges since it limits his ability to get his needs met in everyday situations just by being repetitively honest or internally expressing himself. It also prevents humans from being able to understand why many autistics waste their words on people who do not want to hear them, which can possibly upset a listener who may think that the child is trying to be rude by speaking wastefully around them. Learning how to communicate effectively through repetitive expressions without being rude is something that all autistics need to be taught in order to have satisfying communication skills later in life.


There are not many people with autism who are verbal but do not speak at all, which is rather strange considering that most of them are very intelligent individuals who are just unable to express themselves verbally or understand when someone is speaking directly to them. This does happen, however, and it usually occurs when the person with autism suffers from a processing disorder that interferes with their ability to understand what another individual is saying or writing even though they can hear and see them for themselves. People like these struggle every day with the responsibility of learning how to communicate with others effectively because it is impossible for them to know what anyone else is telling them or how to discuss their own problems and feelings with someone else without getting upset. These people may also have opposite reactions to things than most other people do, such as becoming afraid when something happy happens instead of happy like everyone else might be, which can confuse the listener when they are trying to figure out what is upsetting the person when he is not being repetitively honest about it.

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However, in some cases, there are children who are just born mute because they do not have verbal speech available to them for whatever reason. They may suffer from severe apraxia of speech (AOS), which means that the part of their brain that controls language function is damaged or underdeveloped, so their lips, jaw, tongue, and larynx cannot move in the right ways to allow them to make certain sounds and speak words like most other individuals. However, some people with this problem may not be able to hear or see properly either, which can make it even harder for them to understand why they cannot say something that they think of in their head without knowing how these two senses work together. They also do not usually become able to speak until later on in life because most of their brain development centers around visual processing instead of auditory processing like most humans, but by then, it can be difficult for them to learn how other autistics function because there are so many outside stimuli that require the person’s attention instead of just one thing that is being said directly into their ears without any other noises interfering.


There are also autistics who have oral motor issues such as apraxia, which means that their tongue and lips muscles do not move in the right ways to produce certain sounds even though they may hear them fine or want to say them. They usually also do not learn how to pronounce words correctly because of this problem since it causes problems with the way that their tongues move and therefore prevents them from enunciating certain consonants and vowels but does not affect other sounds like most people with AOS tend to do. It can be very frustrating for a child with both AOS and apraxia at the same time because these two disorders usually go hand in hand, so it is difficult for an individual who has one of them to understand why he cannot speak even though he wants to.

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However, every person with autism is different, and each one of them will struggle with different things that are hard for them to do or easy for other people to learn how to do because they cannot communicate well verbally. Their struggles vary depending on the part of their brain that controls language function, what level of autism they grow up at, and exactly what kind of sounds they want to make when speaking, which determines the severity of these problems. It can also change as time goes on, whether it be getting worse because more words need to be vocalized than before or getting better due to therapy sessions that allow the child with autism an easier way to say certain words without frustration. Whether a child has apraxia or AOS, he will always have a hard time communicating his thoughts and feelings with other people because of the way that their tongues move to produce certain sounds.


However, speech is an important part of communication, so it can be frustrating for both parents and teachers who want them to learn how to converse properly with others. The only way that they can do this is to practice as much as possible during playtime and conversation sessions so they can become familiar with saying certain things without feeling too overwhelmed by the number of words they need to say in order to get their meaning across correctly. Over time, autistics may begin to use phrases such as “speak more slowly” or “write it down” or at least understand what terms like this mean. However, just because they learn how to say certain things more clearly does not necessarily mean that they can understand everything that is being said to them without any outside assistance.

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Many people with autism think in pictures instead of words, and it becomes even worse when there are so many other things surrounding them at once. Their brains become overloaded by the senses around them, making it difficult for them to focus on one thing, whether or not it be hearing someone else speak or trying to communicate with the person who is talking to them. This is part of why many autistics have social problems where they feel awkward speaking to others, especially if they do not know each other well enough for their brain to automatically put the person’s face together with his or her name.


However, there are autistics who can overcome their sensory issues and speak pretty well for themselves once they get over the initial stutter of trying to find the right words together to say what they want to convey. Some autistics end up speaking perfectly once all of the other disorders that affect their behavior start going away with age or due to some kind of treatment. The most important thing is that they practice as much as possible so they can focus on making certain sounds rather than worrying about whether or not someone else will understand what it is that they are trying to say because this skill helps them build better communication skills in the long run. This way, it does not matter if they have apraxia or AOS because communicating with others becomes much easier and more natural.


Although it is important to understand what apraxia and AOS are as well as their symptoms, therapies, and treatments for these disorders, the main purpose of this article is to teach readers about the three levels on which individuals with autism spectrum disorder can grow up at. Some autistics have a low level of autism where they do not really struggle that much outside of having a hard time communicating verbally with other people because they either cannot say certain words or want to but cannot make the right sounds together to make a sentence out of a word. However, on the other extreme side, there are some autistics who have a high level of autism where they do not speak clearly without feeling too overwhelmed by all the sounds around them and have a hard time tying their thoughts together in a way that makes sense to others. They may not even know what some words mean or how to pronounce certain ones properly either, but these levels of autism depend on the person who has it, and all autistics are completely different from each other when it comes to their symptoms and personality traits.


AOS is fairly rare since only one percent of children end up having this problem, according to Medline Plus (2012). There are treatments available for people with apraxia, such as speech therapy, where they can learn at their own pace while also giving them the opportunity to overcome speaking difficulties that make social situations difficult for them. The most important thing about learning speech therapy techniques is that they practice every day, and over time their fluency in speech improves. It is not easy for anyone to communicate verbally since everyone has a different personality and learning style, so the best thing to do is practice communicating with others as much as possible.

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Having AOS or apraxia does not necessarily mean that someone will grow up to be low functioning when they get older because there are many things such as proper therapies and treatments that can help them improve their communication skills until they feel comfortable speaking without too much trouble. Those with autism spectrum disorder can build better communication skills in order to compensate for the disorders that affect them in the long run. Once autistic children learn how to speak at a young age (which is usually around 2 -4 years old), they are already ahead of the game in terms of social development because, over time, they learn how to communicate better with others. However, most autistics end up struggling with speaking when they get older, even if they can speak fluently at a younger age since most people learn how to build communication skills within their relationships with other people.


Overall, it is important for anyone who has AOS or apraxia to practice their speech until it becomes more fluid, and this will make communicating with others much easier, especially when autistic individuals struggle to comprehend what someone else is saying. According to Dr. Hall-Lande’s lecture on developing language skills in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (2013), “kids who have good language skills are much better at comprehending other people’s behaviors and facial expressions” (p. 1). This is because they were able to build their communication skills during childhood before they reached adolescence to make it easier for them to understand what others are trying to convey by the way that they act around certain situations.


On the flip side, an autistic adult may not be low functioning but might still struggle with making conversations with other people since this is especially true if he/she has a high level of autism where communicating verbally becomes extremely difficult over time. Not all autistics have a hard time speaking clearly, but those who do have these problems will need patience from their family members so that they can rely on other ways to communicate instead of just relying on speech all the time (which becomes extremely difficult and exhausting over time). It is important that autistic individuals keep practicing their speech as much as possible because “when you find a way to communicate with someone who has difficulty communicating verbally, it can make such a big difference in your relationship” (Dr. Hall-Lande, 2013, p. 1).


Overall, the levels of autism spectrum disorder depend on how severe each person’s symptoms are since there is no cut and dry method to determine if someone will only have low or high functioning issues throughout his/her lifetime. Autism is a lifelong condition that may affect people differently depending on their learning abilities and personalities which makes it hard for experts to truly understand everyone’s struggles with this disorder compared to others. This is because the levels of autism spectrum disorder are both subjective and objective depending on how a mental health professional perceives the impact that each person’s issues have on their life.

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In conclusion,

Speech improves as children with autism grow up since they learn to adjust their communication styles throughout childhood to make it easier for them to speak fluidly during adulthood. There is no guarantee that autistics will be low functioning adults, but many people with this disorder need patience from those around them so that they can communicate clearly without hesitation or difficulty from others who may not understand why they struggle so much to express themselves verbally. Those who have AOS or apraxia can help improve their speech by practicing as much as possible, just like any other person would practice playing an instrument in music class, for example.


Dr. Hall-Lande’s lecture on developing language skills in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (2013). San Diego State University, San Deigo, California. 

       PsychCentral Staff (2014, February 26). How To Understand Autism: The Levels Of A Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved from  

Wentz, R., & Mandell, D. S. (2005). Apraxia of speech and its relationship to developmental verbal dyspraxia in children with pervasive developmental disorders [Electronic version]. Journal of Communication Disorders, 38(5), 341– 354. Retrieved from


2 responses to “The 3 Levels Of Autism Spectrum Disorder”

  1. Revenge of Eve Avatar

    Incredibly informative post! Any questions I had before reading have been answered. Thank you.


  2. […] Autism – What does Autism look like? Autism is a developmental disorder that begins early in […]


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