One of the most puzzling experiences parents can endure is hearing the clinical jargon of their child’s autism diagnosis. After the confusing language that was supposed to explain everything, most parents are just left with uncertainty.
Alicia Trautwein, creator of The Mom Kind blog, knows all too well how that moment feels. With three children on the autism spectrum and being autistic herself, Trautwein’s neurodynamic family fuels her passion for helping people understand this disorder.
Trautwein says, “According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States today.” This staggering statistic means our schools and society need to be educated and equipped to understand the challenges surrounding this disorder. Trautwein explains that the more people know about this developmental disorder, the more tolerant they become to the misunderstood behaviors it causes.
Education and understanding are the two main reasons Trautwein created her blog. As a writer and motivational speaker, she is dedicated to her mission. But The Mom Kind is not specific to autism. She covers a broad range of topics, including information on ADHD, anxiety, fibromyalgia, sleep disorders, and other childhood special needs.
A ‘Parenting’ section is also an added resource not specific to autism or other developmental disorders. Overall, The Mom Kind is a parent resource complete with the ability to ‘comment,’ which creates a sense of community many parents appreciate and need.
In the ‘Autism’ section of her blog, Trautwein explains that this developmental disorder affects behaviors and communication skills ranging from mild to severe. Autism, also referred to as autism spectrum disorder (ADS), creates challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and non-verbal communication.
In her blog, Trautwein breaks down the levels of autism in a language people can understand rather than using confusing clinical jargon, much like the following explanations below.
Level 1: Requiring Support
Children with Level 1 autism are likely verbal but struggle with social norms. For instance, they may be capable of engaging in conversation but might struggle to stay focused with the back-and-forth nature of this activity. Children with Level 1 autism also have difficulty starting social interactions and complicating peer interactions, making the child seem somewhat antisocial. Trautwein adds that repetitive behaviors and routines/rituals that interfere with everyday life are also indicative of Level 1 autism. She explains, “Examples of these disruptors could include difficulty transitioning from one activity to another, or struggling with executive functioning skills such as organizing and planning.”
Level 2: Requiring Substantial Support
A Level 2 diagnosis elevates the amount of support the child needs. The word ‘substantial’ indicates the severity of symptoms and behaviors is now noticeable even with extra support.
Level 2 is associated with more profound verbal and non-verbal communication deficits and an increased difficulty coping with a change in surroundings. Trautwein says, “These children might experience distress from certain smells or loud noises. And when their behaviors are interrupted, they become frustrated to the point where it is difficult to redirect them.” She adds that people with Level 2 autism also have very narrow interests and may struggle discussing other topics.
Many people with Level 2 autism benefit from occupational therapy and various other therapies. Trautwein states that occupational therapy tends to help with planning and organizing skills and hygiene and social skills.
Level 3: Requiring Very Substantial Support
Autism at a Level 3 indicates the child will have a noticeable lack of verbal and non-verbal communication skills, possibly to the point of being non-verbal. As the most severe level, Level 3 individuals will require substantial support throughout their lives.
The lack of communication skills at this level will cause severe limitations in social interactions with others. And Trautwein explains that restrictive behaviors will also be much more profound at Level 3. “An individual with this diagnosis will have inflexible behaviors. They will also have very restrictive routines or rituals and extreme difficulty with change and transitions.”.
Someone with this level of autism will most likely need a caregiver to acquire the essential skills necessary to succeed.
A final word
While the levels above do shed some light on autism’s complicated range of symptoms, Trautwein says they simplify information to help parents and others understand the complicated jargon they receive in a formal diagnosis. The range of symptoms and their severity can fall between two levels, which complicates understanding. Still, Trautwein hopes this information, and all of the content she puts on The Mom Kind serve as a valuable resource for neurodiverse families.
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