Autism Spectrum Disorder: Redefined

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The way in which autism spectrum disorder is defined and recognized has changed drastically in recent years. In the May 2013 publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual, the separate diagnostic labels of autistic disorder, asperger’s disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder were replaced by the same diagnosis of “autism spectrum disorder.” While ASD may be the general term for a group of complex neurological disorders, the severity of autism a teen has is separated by varying degrees:

Level 1: Requires Support
Level 2: Requires Substantial Support
Level 3: Requires Very Substantial Support

The distinguishing factors of these levels depend on the severity of the adolescent’s social communication impairment and the repeated and restricted behavior patterns of the teen. For teens with autism spectrum disorder, academic and social ability ranges from severe impairment to above-average intelligence with some social disconnect.

Level 1 Autism: Requires Support

Individuals with level 1 autism, without proper support, will display noticeable impairments in social communication. This can manifest itself in a variety of ways from difficulties initiating social interactions and an atypical response to others in social situations. Other common behaviors in individuals with level 1 autism include inflexible thinking, poor organizational and planning skills, and struggles to switch between activities. This individual will likely speak in full sentences but has difficulties engaging in back-and-forth conversations. Furthermore, these individuals may appear to have a decreased interest in social interactions.

Level 2: Requiring Substantial Support

Individuals with level 2 autism have clear deficits in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills in addition to apparent social impairments even with supports in place. Individuals with level 2 autism seldomly initiate social interactions and respond to others in an atypical way. An individual with level 2 autism often limits his or her interactions to a specific interest, focuses on it excessively, and displays repetitive behaviors that are obvious to the casual observer.

Level 3: Requiring Very Substantial Support

Individuals with level 3 autism have severe deficits in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills, that result in very limited initiation of social interactions and a minimal response to social overtones from others. An individual with level 3 autism will likely only have a few words of intelligible speech, display extreme difficulty coping with change, and feel deeply distressed when asked to change their focus or redirect their attention.

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About Vantage Point by Aspiro

Vantage Point is a specialized offshoot of Aspiro Adventure, the program that pioneered wilderness adventure therapy. Vantage Point focuses on helping students with executive function disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Nonverbal Learning Disorders, among others.

The Vantage Point programs are designed to build self-efficacy in our students through overwhelming mastery experiences – our students accomplish goals they never believed possible, which creates a belief that they are capable of changing their own lives for the better. We focus specifically on social dynamics and social skills to help our students connect with others and feel like they can be a part of the world. Experiential Learning is a tenet of our philosophy and our program. Paired with ongoing individual therapy and targeting specific areas for growth, our wilderness therapy programs are proven successful by outcome studies and are overseen by experienced Field Guides and clinical professionals