Autism is a lifelong neuro-developmental disability that affects the development of the brain in areas of social interaction and communication. People with autism have difficulties in communicating and forming relationships with people, in developing language and in using abstract concepts. It also impacts on their ability to make sense of the world around them. It was first described by Leo Kanner in 1943. The following year in 1944, a German scientist named Hans Asperger describes a "milder" form of autism now known as Asperger's Syndrome. It wasn't until 1994 that Asperger's Syndrome was added to the DSM, expanding the autism spectrum to include milder cases in which individuals tend to be more highly functioning.
Over the years, the definition, classification and diagnostic specifics of autism have undergone many significant changes. In 2013 the DSM-5 folded all subcategories of the condition into one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Asperger's Syndrome is no longer considered a separate condition. The severity levels for Autism Spectrum Disorder, 299.00 (F84.0) from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) are outlined below.
Level 3: "Requiring very substantial support"
Social communication: Severe deficits in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills cause severe impairments in functioning, very limited initiation of social interactions, and minimal response to social overtures from others. For example, a person with few words of intelligible speech who rarely initiates interaction and, when he or she does, makes unusual approaches to meet needs only and responds to only very direct social approaches.
Restricted, repetitive behaviours: Inflexibility of behaviour, extreme difficulty coping with change, or other restricted / repetitive behaviours markedly interfere with functioning in all spheres. Great distress / difficulty changing focus or action.
Level 2: "Requiring substantial support"
Social communication: Marked deficits in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills; social impairments apparent even with supports in place; limited initiation of social interactions; and reduced or abnormal responses to social overtures from others. For example, a person who speaks simple sentences, whose interaction is limited to narrow special interests, and how has markedly odd nonverbal communication.
Restricted, repetitive behaviours: Inflexibility of behaviour, difficulty coping with change, or other restricted / repetitive behaviours appear frequently enough to be obvious to the casual observer and interfere with functioning in a variety of contexts. Distress and / or difficulty changing focus or action.
Level 1: "Requiring support"
Social communication: Without supports in place, deficits in social communication cause noticeable impairments. Difficulty initiating social interactions, and clear examples of atypical or unsuccessful response to social overtures of others. May appear to have decreased interest in social interactions. For example, a person who is able to speak in full sentences and engages in communication but whose to-and-fro conversation with others fails, and whose attempts to make friends are odd and typically unsuccessful.
Restricted, repetitive behaviours: Inflexibility of behaviour causes significant interference with functioning in one or more contexts. Difficulty switching between activities. Problems of organization and planning hamper independence.____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
'If they can't learn the way we teach, we teach the way they learn' ~ O. Ivar Lovaas