Autism Spectrum Disorder: Understanding Your Child’s Diagnosis

  • Home
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder: Understanding Your Child’s Diagnosis
Autism Spectrum Disorder: Understanding Your Child’s Diagnosis

Introduction to Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong condition, that mainly impacts a person’s communication, behavior, and social skills. Autism is a complex disorder that affects every individual differently. Data available from the National Institute of Mental Health indicates that 1 in 36 children are on the Autism Spectrum.

Getting an Autism Diagnosis

Many kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder show early signs that alert parents or healthcare providers to the need for evaluation. The process can be lengthy and involves family interviews as well as direct observation of the child. When making an official diagnosis, clinicians break down a diagnosis into three levels based on symptom severity and support needed. Keep reading to learn more!

The Three Levels of Autism

Level 1: Requiring Support

Level 1 describes children who need the least amount of therapeutic support. Kids with Level 1 Autism may have some challenges with social interactions, for example, starting conversations. They may also be slightly behind neurotypical peers in learning organizational or planning skills. Tasks like transitioning from one activity to the next may also need practice. Social anxiety and masking behaviors (trying to “act” neurotypical) are common for this group.

Level 2: "Requiring Substantial Support"

Level 2 Autism is marked by more severe challenges that require greater levels of care. Verbal or nonverbal communication may be limited (Heartleaf with this!) and children with Level 2 Autism are likely to need more social support.

Stimming (repetitive movement or fidgeting) is also more pronounced and emotional regulation may be a struggle for these kiddos as well. Things like transitions or overstimulation will likely require care plans to prevent/address stress, frustration, or physical discomfort that can result in challenging behaviors (self-harm, meltdowns, etc.).

Level 3: "Requiring Very Substantial Support"

Level 3 is considered the “highest” level of Autism in that children diagnosed as Level 3 are likely to face the greatest challenges and need the most therapeutic support. This Level is characterized by severe difficulty in both verbal and nonverbal communication, very limited social interaction or response to overtures from others, and extreme difficulty coping with changes in schedules, activities, etc. Restricted or repetitive stimming behaviors may seriously interfere with daily functioning.

Most often, children diagnosed as Level 3 require intensive therapeutic services (35-40 hrs/week) and may require a wider range of therapies. For example, ABA therapy plus Occupational Therapy (OT) or Speech and Language Therapy (SLP).


Understanding your child's Autism diagnosis is an essential part of connecting them with the right support and services. Each child on the Autism Spectrum will require individualized care regardless of whether they are Level 1, 2 and 3. Heartleaf ABA is dedicated to offering personalized treatment plans respecting each child's unique needs while working with families for optimal outcomes.