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What is Autism?


Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that is characterized by deficits in the ability to learn, communicate, and form social relationships. Autism occurs across all racial, ethnic, and social groups and its effects typically last a lifetime.

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are complex neurological disorders.
  • ASD affects individuals in the areas of social interaction and communication.
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorders is the “umbrella” term for a group of disorders that includes Autism.
  • Autism is referred to as a spectrum disorder because symptoms may occur in any combination and with varying degrees of severity.
  • Researchers believe several genes, possibly in combination with environmental factors, may contribute to autism.
  • Children with ASD respond well to highly structured settings (including tours) with appropriate support (hence, our travel concierge) and accommodations tailored to their specific needs.

What are the Different Levels of Autism Spectrum Disorder?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5) uses three levels of autism to diagnose the severity of impairment. The levels are:

Level-1 ASD – formerly known as high-functioning autism, is the mildest form. People with level-1 autism require support.
Level-2 ASD – Level 2 ASD is the middle level of autism. People with level-2 autism require substantial support.
Level-3 ASD – formerly known as low-functioning autism, is the most severe form of autism. People with level-3 autism require very substantial support.

What Is Low-Functioning Autism?

People with level-3 or low-functioning autism have severe deficits in social communication, extreme difficulty coping with change and other restrictive behaviors that cause severe impairments in functioning.

While every autistic person is different, people with level-3 autism may be mute or have few words of intelligible speech. They rarely initiate social interactions and may have minimal responses to social overtures from others.

These challenges make it very hard for people with level-3 autism to complete day-to-day tasks, like taking care of themselves or working.

What Is High-Functioning Autism?

People with level-1 or high-functioning autism are often able to function far more independently than those with more severe autism. They too have challenges with social communication, but typically have strong language skills. They tend to be rigid or inflexible and have difficulty transitioning between activities.

While people with level-1 ASD are often considered high-functioning, difficulties with social communication and restrictive or repetitive behaviors can cause significant interference in day-to-day functioning.

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