As the founder of Arizona Autism Charter Schools and an autism mom who adores and cherishes children with autism, I firmly believe in embracing the diverse strengths and needs of each individual on the spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) includes a wide range of unique talents, perspectives and challenges. My goal is to shed light and hope as we explore the three levels of autism from a strength-based perspective, while acknowledging the levels of support typically needed by children at each level.
Level 1: Requiring Support – Unveiling Remarkable Potential
Level 1 autism may present mild challenges in social communication and interactions, but it is also a realm of incredible potential. These children often have an intense fascination and can become experts in their chosen areas, impressing us with their encyclopedic knowledge. With the right support, they may go to college and be great contributors to the workforce.
Level 2: Requiring Substantial Support – Embracing Unique Perspectives
At Level 2 autism, individuals may face more pronounced challenges in communication and social interactions. These children often have a profound appreciation for sensory experiences and hands-on projects and can do very well in structured, small group settings. They typically have more success demonstrating their knowledge through project-based learning rather than verbal communication.
Level 3: Requiring Very Substantial Support – Embracing Resilience and Perseverance
Level 3 autism represents the most severe end of the spectrum, but it is also a testament to incredible resilience. They may be non-verbal and have limited social interactions, but generally, they thrive with structured routines and enjoy patterns and repetitive tasks. Their ability to communicate using alternative methods, such as gestures and assistive communication devices, demonstrates their determination to express their needs and emotions.
My son Sammy has level 3 autism, and he is a happy productive member of our school community. He is a wonderful and helpful family member, and the greatest inspiration of my life.
Categorizing autism into levels is not about a pecking order of success, but rather about recognizing the diverse strengths and challenges children with ASD may face. It allows parents and educators to tailor support accordingly. At our schools, we tailor supports by offering three programs; the Academic Program for children working at or near grade level and needing social/behavioral supports, the Modified Academic Program for students needing differentiated curriculum and very small group instruction, and the Functional Academic Program offering a very structured clinical program and hands-on adaptive curriculum.
Understanding the different levels of autism empowers us as parents, caregivers, and educators to create an environment where children with autism can thrive.
For more information about Arizona Autism Charter Schools visit autismcharter.org