ASD (autism spectrum disorder) is a neurodevelopmental condition that leads to varying levels of cognitive and social impairments. The term “Asperger’s syndrome” was originally coined by an Austrian paediatrician (Hans Asperger) in the 1940s to describe a specific set of behaviours and characteristics within the autism spectrum. Level 1 autism is a term used to describe the mildest form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and is based on the diagnostic criteria outlined in the aforementioned DSM-5. However, in recent years, the term, Asperger’s syndrome, has fallen out of use for a few reasons.

The first reason for the reduction in the use of this term is that in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) Asperger’s syndrome was removed as a separate diagnostic category and joined into the broader category of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This change was made because researchers found that the criteria used to diagnose Asperger’s overlapped significantly with those used for autism, and there was inconsistency in diagnosing individuals with Asperger’s syndrome. A secondary reason for this term becoming outdated is the criticism of Hans Asperger’s past and the documented harm he inflicted upon children (especially those with disabilities) in WW2. This has led to discomfort with continuing to use his name to describe a developmental disorder.

As a result, many advocates for individuals with autism prefer the use of the term “autism spectrum disorder” because it emphasises the unity of the spectrum and promotes understanding and acceptance of individuals across the spectrum, regardless of where they fall within it.

Level 1 autism is a term used to describe the mildest form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and is based on the diagnostic criteria outlined in the aforementioned DSM-5. In the DSM-5, autism spectrum disorder is categorised into three levels based on the level of support required. Level 1 autism is those on the ASD spectrum with lower, but important support needs, level 2 is individuals who require substantial support, and level 3 is those who require very substantial support,

Level 1 autism, also known as “requiring support,” is characterised by difficulties in social communication and social interaction, as well as the presence of restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities. However, individuals with Level 1 autism typically require less support compared to those with Level 2 or Level 3 autism. They may have relatively mild symptoms and may be able to function relatively well in society, especially with appropriate support and accommodations.

Individuals with Level 1 autism, like those at other levels of the autism spectrum, may benefit from a range of therapies and interventions tailored to their specific needs and strengths. Some common therapies and supports that may be

 helpful for individuals with Level 1 autism include:

Some of the therapies that can be used to manage and support level 1 autism are:

  • Behavioural Therapy: Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapy can help individuals with autism learn and improve social, communication, and behavioural skills through structured and individualised interventions.
  • Social skills training: Social skills training programmes can help individuals with autism learn and practise appropriate social behaviours, including initiating and maintaining conversations, understanding nonverbal cues, and making and maintaining friendships.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT techniques can be useful for addressing anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges that may co-occur with autism.
  • Speech and Language Therapy: Speech and language therapy can help individuals with autism improve communication skills, including speech, language comprehension, and nonverbal communication such as gestures and facial expressions.
  • Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapy can address sensory processing issues, fine and gross motor skills, and activities of daily living to improve independence and quality of life.
  • Sensory Integration Therapy: Sensory integration therapy can help individuals with autism better understand and regulate their sensory experiences, such as sensitivity to light, sound, touch, and textures.
  • Social stories and visual supports: These tools use visual aids and narratives to help individuals with autism understand social situations, routines, and expectations, which can reduce anxiety and improve social interactions.
  • Structured teaching and visual schedules: Structured teaching methods, such as the TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children) approach, provide clear organisation and visual support to help individuals with autism navigate daily activities and routines.

Interventions need to be tailored to the individual’s strengths, preferences, and specific areas of need. Collaboration between professionals, caregivers, and the individual with autism is essential to developing an effective support plan.

Article by Ashleigh Pascoe