Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a multifaceted condition, with each level presenting its own set of challenges and strengths. Level 2 Autism, often seen as the middle ground in the spectrum, requires a nuanced understanding. This article aims to shed light on Level 2 Autism, offering insights for parents and ABA therapists to better support children diagnosed with this condition.

What is Level 2 Autism?

Level 2 Autism, often situated in the middle of the autism spectrum, is characterized by a more pronounced need for support compared to Level 1. While individuals with this level can have varying communication abilities and skills, they face significant challenges that can impact their daily life. To paint a clearer picture, let’s explore the key characteristics of Level 2 Autism.

Communication:

Children with Level 2 Autism might have limited verbal skills, and when they do communicate, it’s often centered around specific topics of interest. For instance, young Jake rarely initiates conversations but can speak at length about trains, detailing their types, functions, and histories. However, when it comes to everyday topics or understanding abstract concepts like emotions, he finds it challenging.

Repetitive Behaviors:

These behaviors are more evident in Level 2 Autism. Sarah, for example, has a ritual where she needs to touch every door frame she walks through. Any disruption to this routine can cause significant distress. Additionally, she might engage in repetitive play, such as lining up her toys in a specific order and becoming upset if the order is altered.

Social Challenges:

Navigating the social world can be particularly challenging. Leo, a child with Level 2 Autism, often finds group activities overwhelming. While he might want to join his peers in a game, understanding the rules of social engagement, like waiting for his turn or interpreting facial expressions, can be daunting. This often results in him playing alongside peers (parallel play) rather than directly interacting with them.

Adaptive Behaviors:

Children with Level 2 Autism might struggle with adaptive behaviors, which are the practical, everyday skills needed to function and meet the demands of one’s environment. For example, dressing appropriately for the weather, understanding personal safety, or transitioning between tasks can be areas of challenge. Young Mia, for instance, might wear a heavy sweater on a hot day or find it difficult to switch from her drawing activity to mealtime without a structured routine.

Sensory Sensitivities:

While sensory sensitivities can be present across the autism spectrum, in Level 2, they might be more pronounced. Sounds, textures, lights, or even certain smells can be overwhelming. Ethan, for example, cannot stand the sound of a vacuum cleaner. The noise is so distressing that his family has to ensure he’s in a different part of the house, with headphones on, whenever they need to vacuum.

Symptoms of Level 2 Autism

To better grasp the symptoms, let’s journey with young Aiden, a 9-year-old with Level 2 Autism.

Challenges in Social Interactions:

Aiden often finds group activities overwhelming. During school projects, he prefers to work on tasks he’s familiar with, avoiding new roles. At recess, while he enjoys watching his peers play, joining in is a hurdle he’s still learning to overcome.

Intense Focus on Specific Interests:

Dinosaurs captivate Aiden’s world. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of various species and eras. However, this intense focus means he often discusses dinosaurs, even when the conversation topic is different, making it challenging for peers to relate.

Sensitivity to Sensory Stimuli:

Textures are a big deal for Aiden. Foods with mixed textures, like a sandwich, can be distressing. His parents have learned to present foods separately to help him cope. Similarly, the hum of fluorescent lights in his classroom can be distracting, often requiring adaptations to help him focus.

Significant Routine Adherence:

Aiden thrives on routines. An unexpected change, like a substitute teacher or a rescheduled class, can be deeply unsettling, requiring additional support to navigate.

How is Level 2 Autism Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of Level 2 Autism is a meticulous and multi-faceted process, designed to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the child’s unique challenges and strengths. It’s a journey that requires collaboration, patience, and expertise. For families embarking on this path, it’s essential to know that each step is taken with the utmost care, ensuring the child’s well-being is at the forefront.

The story of young Elara offers insights into the intricate process of diagnosing Level 2 Autism.

Medical Evaluation:

Before delving into specific behavioral assessments, a thorough medical evaluation is conducted. This step is crucial to rule out any other medical conditions or factors that might mimic or contribute to autism-like symptoms. It’s a holistic approach, considering the child’s overall health, developmental milestones, and any potential underlying medical issues.

Elara’s journey began with her pediatrician, who conducted a thorough evaluation to rule out other potential conditions, ensuring her behaviors weren’t linked to other medical issues.

Behavioral Observations:

Once medical factors are considered, the focus shifts to understanding the child’s behaviors in various settings. Specialists, equipped with tools and criteria specific to autism, observe the child in environments like school or therapy centers. They’re looking for patterns, repetitive behaviors, social challenges, and other indicators that align with the characteristics of Level 2 Autism.

A specialist observed Elara in her kindergarten class. They noted her reluctance to participate in group activities and her tendency to repeat certain tasks, like lining up her crayons in a specific order, multiple times.

Parental and Teacher Inputs:

Parents and teachers offer invaluable insights into the child’s behaviors, routines, and challenges. Their day-to-day interactions with the child provide a wealth of information that can’t be replicated in a clinical setting. Detailed interviews, questionnaires, and feedback sessions are conducted to gather this essential data.

Feedback from Elara’s teacher highlighted her challenges in adapting to changes in the classroom routine. Her parents provided insights into her home behaviors, emphasizing her intense focus on specific toys and her difficulty in transitioning between activities.

Standardized Tests:

The final piece of the diagnostic puzzle involves standardized tests. These are designed to assess various domains, including cognitive abilities, language skills, and adaptive behaviors. Administered by trained professionals, these tests provide quantifiable data, complementing the qualitative observations and feedback gathered earlier.

Through a series of engaging activities and tasks, a psychologist assessed Elara’s cognitive, language, and adaptive skills, painting a comprehensive picture of her strengths and areas needing support.

Comparing Autism Levels: Understanding the Key Differences

While all levels of autism fall under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder, each level has its unique set of characteristics and challenges. Level 1 is often seen as the mildest form, with Level 3 being the most severe in terms of challenges faced. Level 2 sits in the middle, with individuals requiring substantial support but also showcasing a blend of characteristics from both Level 1 and Level 3. Understanding these nuances is crucial for parents, caregivers, and therapists to provide the most effective support tailored to the individual’s needs. To better understand Level 2 Autism, it’s beneficial to see how it stands in relation to Level 1 and Level 3. Here’s a comparative breakdown:

Level 1 Autism:

  • Communication: Individuals with Level 1 Autism, often referred to as “high-functioning autism,” can communicate verbally, though they might struggle with back-and-forth conversations and understanding non-verbal cues.
  • Repetitive Behaviors: These behaviors are present but might be less pronounced. For instance, a child might have specific routines but can manage minor disruptions with minimal distress.
  • Social Challenges: While social interactions can be challenging, individuals with Level 1 Autism often have a desire to engage with peers but might struggle with understanding social norms or cues.

Level 2 Autism:

  • Communication: Verbal skills can be limited, and conversations often revolve around specific interests. Non-verbal communication can be particularly challenging.
  • Repetitive Behaviors: These are more evident, with a strong preference for routines. Disruptions can cause significant distress.
  • Social Challenges: There’s a noticeable situations. Individuals with Level 2 Autism might show reduced interest in social interactions or find it challenging to engage even when they have the desire. Their ability to initiate or respond to social overtures from others can be limited.

Level 3 Autism:

  • Communication: Individuals with Level 3 Autism might have very limited verbal skills or might be non-verbal. They often require significant support to communicate their needs and might rely on alternative communication methods, such as picture exchange systems or assistive devices.
  • Repetitive Behaviors: These behaviors are highly pronounced. A child with Level 3 Autism might engage in repetitive movements, like hand-flapping, or show extreme distress when routines are disrupted, even minimally.
  • Social Challenges: Social interactions can be profoundly challenging. There might be minimal interest in or response to other people, including primary caregivers. They often appear to be in their own world and might require structured interventions to engage in even basic social interactions.

Supporting Children with Level 2 Autism

Supporting a child with Level 2 Autism is a profound commitment that demands understanding, patience, and a tailored approach. Each child’s needs are unique, and the support mechanisms must be flexible and adaptive to these individual requirements. The goal is to create an environment where the child feels understood, valued, and empowered to navigate their challenges. Here’s a structured approach to providing this support:

The tale of young Sam emphasizes the importance of a robust support system for children with Level 2 Autism.

Tailored Intervention Programs:

Recognizing the specific needs of the child is paramount. Based on comprehensive assessments, personalized intervention programs are designed. These programs might encompass speech therapy to enhance communication skills, occupational therapy to address sensory challenges, and behavioral therapy to manage and redirect certain behaviors. The key is to ensure that interventions are dynamic, adjusting to the child’s progress and evolving needs.

Sam’s week is interspersed with speech and occupational therapy sessions. These are tailored to his needs, helping him expand his communication skills and cope with sensory challenges.

Social Skills Training:

Social interactions can be particularly challenging for children with Level 2 Autism. Dedicated training sessions, often in group settings, are designed to teach these children the nuances of social behavior. From understanding facial expressions to learning the ebb and flow of conversations, these sessions aim to equip the child with skills to navigate social situations more confidently.

Group activities, under the guidance of a therapist, have become a staple for Sam. These sessions, through games and role-playing, aim to enhance his social interaction skills.

Sensory Integration Therapy:

Many children with Level 2 Autism have pronounced sensory sensitivities. Sensory integration therapy is a specialized approach that helps these children process and respond to sensory stimuli in a more balanced manner. Through controlled exposures and therapeutic techniques, the child learns to manage their sensory experiences, reducing feelings of overwhelm or distress.

Sam’s sensory room, filled with soft lights, calming music, and tactile objects, is his haven. It’s where he learns to process sensory stimuli more effectively, equipping him to handle the sensory-rich outside world.

Family Counseling and Workshops:

The family plays a pivotal role in the child’s support system. Counseling sessions and workshops are offered to educate families about Level 2 Autism, providing them with strategies, tools, and coping mechanisms. This ensures that the home environment is consistent, understanding, and supportive, complementing the interventions the child receives externally.

Sam’s family attends regular counseling sessions. These equip them with strategies to support him at home, ensuring a consistent and understanding environment.

Conclusion: The Journey of Understanding and Support

Level 2 Autism, with its unique challenges, underscores the importance of early diagnosis, understanding, and tailored support. Children like Aiden, Elara, and Sam, with the right interventions and a supportive environment, can thrive, showcasing their unique talents and perspectives. Parents and ABA therapists, armed with knowledge and empathy, play a pivotal role in this journey, ensuring these children lead fulfilling lives.