Level 1 Autism: Key Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a disorder that typically involves deficits in social communication and interaction, along with restricted or repetitive patterns. These social deficits can include developing or maintaining relationships, inability to start or carry a conversation, failure to pick up nonverbal communication, or absence or decreased interest in others their age. Repetitive/restricted behaviors can include being adherent to a specific routine, repetitive movements, intense and restricted interests, or sensitivity to sensory input.

What is especially important to remember is that autism spectrum disorder is just that – a spectrum. The symptoms and abilities of individuals with autism can vary significantly. Some may encounter some more severe challenges, while others exhibit milder difficulties. The support needs and severity of symptoms are typically broken down into three different levels of autism. Level 1 represents individuals with milder difficulties who may require lower levels of support, Level 2 represents intermediate challenges with moderate support needs, and Level 3 signifies the most severe challenges, with the need for substantial support.

Level 1 autism is a classification indicating that individuals typically require lower levels of support. Without support, those with the Level 1 classification can have noticeable impairments in social interactions and daily functioning.

Autism Level 1 Symptoms

Before going deeper into Level 1 autism, it is important to remember that autism has a profound impact on individuals’ lives, regardless of the severity level. All levels of autism require support. Even those with Level 1 autism face daily struggles and challenges that should never be undermined or taken less seriously. Each individual’s journey with autism is unique. Acknowledging and supporting their needs, regardless of the severity level, is essential to their well-being.

Early developmental markers for neurotypical children include making eye contact, engaging in simple social interactions, and showing interest in others. They typically begin smiling at others around 2 months of age. They start to babble and attempt to communicate with caregivers within the first 12 months. By the age of two, they should have a handful of different words in their repertoire. However, in cases of Level 1 ASD, early signs of social or behavioral challenges may become apparent. They may show difficulties making eye contact, limited engagement in social interactions, and a preference for playing alone. Some children with Level 1 autism classification might struggle with delayed speech or language development.

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How is Level 1 Autism Diagnosed?


Determining whether or not someone has autism spectrum disorder with a Level 1 classification is a detailed and team-based effort. Usually, it starts with a visit to a regular doctor like a pediatrician or a developmental expert. They look over the basic developmental milestones and decide if a referral to a specialist, such as a psychologist, speech therapist, or behavioral expert. These specialists use specific tests, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R). They usually also observe the child being assessed, paying close attention to how they interact with others, communicate, and behave. Each person is different, so the way that they are assessed might change. Getting a deep and careful evaluation is key to knowing if Level 1 autism is an appropriate diagnosis and classification. After the diagnosis, parents can seek out resources and support that can be tailored to what their child and family need.

Characteristics of Level 1 Autism

People diagnosed with Level 1 autism often struggle with social communication skills. They might not accurately interpret social cues, find it hard to start or keep up a conversation, or fail to pick up on different types of nonverbal communication. For example, they struggle to understand what is being expressed when it comes to others’ facial expressions or body language. They may also struggle with things such as making eye contact or understanding when someone is being sarcastic or making a joke. This can make it incredibly challenging for someone with autism to make and keep friends. 

Besides these social challenges, those with Level 1 autism also tend to engage in certain repetitive behaviors. They may repeat the same actions over and over again. Some of these actions can include things like hand-flapping, rocking, or spinning. They may also have a strict adherence to certain routines. They may become incredibly stressed if something in that routine is changed. This strict adherence may also apply to their diet, limiting them to very little variety in what they eat. Children with autism may also have very narrow interests in specific topics or activities. 

Impact on Daily Life

Living with Level 1 autism has an impact on most aspects of everyday life, especially when it comes to their educational journey. Parents and caregivers often find themselves having to figure out many different aspects of the school system to make sure their children receive the right support. They usually work with teachers and other school professionals to put together an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to meet their child’s unique needs. This might include special arrangements in the classroom, speech and language therapy (SLT), occupational therapy (OT), and other types of training to improve their social and communication skills.

As mentioned earlier, making friends and socializing can be quite challenging for someone with Level 1 ASD. Parents and caregivers can play a vital role in helping them learn various social skills. This can involve teaching and practicing key social behaviors such as making eye contact, taking turns in conversations, and understanding nonverbal cues. It can also be helpful to explain different common idioms in daily life. Encouraging engagement in different social activity groups can also help them learn how to make and keep friends.

Parental Role and Support

Level_1_autism parental support

The role of parents in supporting a child with Level 1 ASD is crucial, often involving various aspects of care and advocacy. Handling stress and other complex emotions is a large part of the journey for both the child and caregivers. Parents can sometimes feel overwhelmed. Teaching the child coping strategies is important, but it is vital for parents to have healthy coping strategies as well. Connecting with other parents who have been through similar struggles is important. Parents can provide support and can share tips in navigating the school system, healthcare options, and so on. Seeking advice from medical professionals can also be valuable in learning about how to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Advocacy is arguably the most essential component of being a parent to a child with autism, regardless of level classification. This means collaboration with teachers and healthcare providers to ensure that educational and medical needs are met. Parents should actively participate in creating their child’s Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and organizing different therapies and help for their child. Knowing and using the resources available such as support groups, therapy options, and community programs, can boost a parent’s ability to give their child the best possible support and care. 

Treatment For Autism Level 1

Treatment of autism spectrum disorder typically involves a variety of early intervention programs that are tailored to meet the specific needs of each individual. There are a large number of treatment options available, with the most common treatment being applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. ABA therapy is well-known for its success in helping those with autism, including those with a Level 1 classification. ABA therapy focuses on changing behaviors and improving social skills, thus addressing the primary challenges that people with autism face. This therapy is customized for each person’s unique needs and can be provided in different locations, such as homes, schools, or therapy centers.

There are many other therapy types important in the treatment of Level 1 autism. Speech and language therapy is another great option for helping individuals get better at communicating, from speaking more clearly to understanding verbal and nonverbal social cues. Occupational therapy is also popular, especially for those with sensory challenges. Occupational therapists work on helping individuals handle their sensory sensitivities and come up with ways to cope. When you combine these different interventions, they offer a great deal of individualized support and play a crucial role in the development and improvement of everyday life.

Positive Aspects of Level 1 Autism

Living with autism spectrum disorder isn’t just about the challenges; it also includes a range of unique strengths and talents. Many people with autism demonstrate amazing abilities and interests, often possessing an intense passion for their topics of interest. An intense focus and attention to detail can lead to impressive achievements in their areas of interest. For example, there is an increasing number of autistic individuals in the workforce, especially in STEM-related careers. When we recognize and support these strengths, we can help individuals with ASD make a significant difference in their communities and the larger world.


Parents need to understand and support their children across the autism spectrum, including those with a Level 1 classification. This will help not only their child, but it will build a kinder, more inclusive world for everyone. Parents are critical in advocating for their child’s specific needs. Every person on the spectrum is a one-of-a-kind individual, with a combination of strengths, challenges, and talents, just like everyone else. Celebrating who they are, what they value, and what they achieve is a huge part of this journey. By creating a space where acceptance, understanding, and support are the norm, parents can make sure that their children can flourish, forge strong relationships, and add their unique value to our communities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Autism Level 1 a Disability?

Yes. The Level 1 classification of ASD brings its own set of challenges, especially in social communication and behavior. People with Level 1 autism often need different kinds of support and help to deal with these challenges. It’s key to remember that autism is a spectrum, so the amount of support needed varies from person to person. With the right kind of help and adjustments for their disability, many with Level 1 autism can live successful and fulfilling lives.

Is Autism Level 1 Curable?

No. Like the other level classifications of ASD, Level 1 ASD isn’t something that can be cured. It’s a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition. But it’s important to know that getting help early and having the right therapies can make a big difference in someone’s life. They can learn skills to handle challenges better and develop coping skills. Even though there’s no cure for autism, there are several types of therapies and supports available. The goal of these therapies and supports is to provide people with Level 1 autism with the tools and strategies they need to reach their full potential.

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