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Understanding Level 1 Autism: Unpacking High-Functioning Autism

In the realm of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Level 1 Autism stands out as a category representing individuals with milder manifestations of autism, often accompanied by average to above-average intelligence. This subgroup typically receives diagnosis earlier than those with more severe forms of autism, often between the ages of 3 and 6. However, some may receive a diagnosis later due to less pronounced symptoms or developed coping mechanisms that mask their weaknesses and social challenges.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of ASD in the United States is approximately 1 in 44 children, encompassing individuals across the spectrum, including Level 1 Autism. This prevalence reflects improvements in awareness, screening, and diagnostic practices over time.

Autism, defined by persistent deficits in social communication and interaction across contexts, is classified into three levels in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5):

This blog zooms in on Level 1 Autism, exploring its characteristics, challenges, strengths, and interventions.

What is Level 1 Autism?

Level 1 Autism, as per the DSM-5, denotes individuals needing support due to social communication difficulties without significant impairments in daily functioning. They may struggle with social cues, eye contact, and reciprocal conversations, alongside exhibiting repetitive behaviors and intense interests

Characteristics of Level 1 Autism:

  • Social Interaction Challenges: Difficulty with social norms, making friends, and interpreting nonverbal cues.
  • Communication Differences: Pragmatic language challenges, understanding metaphors/sarcasm, and maintaining diverse conversations.
  • Repetitive Behaviors: Adherence to routines and repetitive actions.
  • Sensory Sensitivities: Hypersensitivity/hyposensitivity to sensory input like sounds, textures, or lights.
  • Special Interests: Intense, focused interests are often pursued extensively.

Level 1 Autism: Challenges and Strengths

While living with Level 1 Autism presents challenges in social interaction, sensory processing, and routine management, individuals often demonstrate strengths such as detail-oriented thinking, logical reasoning, creativity, and dedication.

Support and Interventions

Dr Stephen Shore, an autism advocate and he himself has autism, said, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” Support strategies can include:

  • Social Skills Training
  • Communication Support
  • Sensory Integration Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Education and Workplace Accommodations

If your goal is to find an intervention or support outside of the school for your teen visit the residential treatment or Transitional Living filters.  

If you are 18 and over, a young adult searching for different options for your neurodivergent brain or community, visit the residential treatment or the  Transitional Living filters. 


Level 1 Autism, or high-functioning autism, is a unique facet of the autism spectrum, blending challenges with notable strengths. Individuals can lead fulfilling lives and contribute meaningfully to their communities with tailored support and interventions.

For more information about neurodiverse brains and autism spectrum disorder, visit the blog.

Explore treatment programs by age:

✅ Pre-Teen Treatment or  Transitional Living
✅ Teen Treatment  or  Transitional Living 
✅ Young Adult (18 – 30+) Treatment  or  Transitional Living

Further blogs that you can review:

Can Your School System Help With Treatment Options? 8 Questions To Ask
Insurance Billing: the 101 Course
Understanding The 3 Levels of Autism