What is Level 1 Autism?

Type 1 autism is the first of the three recognized levels of autism. Level 1 autism is considered the “mildest” type of ASD, with symptoms being less disruptive to the individual’s life compared to level 2 and level 3.

Assigning a level to an autism diagnosis determines what kind of help and support an individual with autism will need. Typically, autism level 1 symptoms include difficulty with social communication and interaction, along with inflexible behavior. Level 1 autism treatment will help address these symptoms and provide ongoing support, especially in educational settings. After the DSM-5’s recategorization of ASD in 2013, what used to be identified as Asperger’s disorder would now most likely be identified as level 1 autism. [i]

At the Drake Institute, we’ve provided effective treatment for autism patients of all levels. Our unique treatment process, led by David Velkoff, M.D., integrates medicine, psychology, neuropsychology, family support, and neuroscience for a customized approach to ASD treatment. Our neurofeedback treatment protocols are non-drug and can provide a reduction of symptoms for long-lasting improvement.

For more information about how the Drake Institute has helped patients with ASD, ADHD, depression, anxiety, and more, call 800-700-4233 or fill out the contact form.

What Is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that ranges from mild to severe and includes repetitive behaviors, impaired social communication, restricted interests, and rigidity.

ASD has become a more frequently diagnosed condition in childhood that affects around 1 in 44 children in the US. Boys are diagnosed more often than girls, possibly due to gender bias or girls’ ability to mask their symptoms more effectively.  The diagnosis is life-long; there is no known cure for autism, but there are reported cases of individuals with ASD who improved so much from a clinical intervention that they no longer meet the criteria for an ASD diagnosis.

Most likely, environmental and/or genetic factors play a significant role in the development of autism. Several genes are associated with ASD, but research is ongoing to discover how they contribute to the disorder.

In 2013, autism was reclassified under a broader category called Autism spectrum disorder. Previously, diagnoses of Autism, Asperger’s disorder, PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified), and childhood disintegration disorder were categorized as separate disorders, but they’re now classified as part of the Autism spectrum.

Level 1 autism is the mildest form of autism, with less severe developmental deficits than level 2 or level 3 autism, and it requires less support and clinical intervention.

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Autism?

According to the CDC, early signs and symptoms of autism can occasionally be detected by 18 months, and a reliable diagnosis by an experienced professional can be made by the time the child turns 2 years old.

The primary symptoms of autism affect the child’s social interactions, communication, and behavior. Not all autistic children will have all the symptoms listed below, and symptom severity will vary from child to child, even for children diagnosed with level 1 autism. [ii]

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Doesn’t respond to name by 9 months of age
  • Lack of facial expressions (e.g., happy, sad, angry, etc.) by 9 months of age
  • Doesn’t play simple interactive games (e.g., pat-e-cake) by 12 months of age
  • Uses few or no hand gestures (e.g., doesn’t wave hello or goodbye) by 12 months of age
  • Doesn’t share interests with others (e.g., doesn’t show you their favorite toy) by 15 months of age
  • Doesn’t point to show you something interesting by 18 months of age
  • Doesn’t notice when others are hurt or upset by 24 months of age
  • Doesn’t notice other children and play with them by 36 months of age
  • Doesn’t pretend to be someone else (e.g., teacher, superhero, etc.) by 48 months of age
  • Doesn’t sing, act, or dance for you by 60 months of age

What Does Level 1 Autism Look Like?

Level 1 autism is the mildest form of autism and includes the former diagnosis of Asperger’s disorder.

As with other levels of autism, level 1 autism affects how a person interacts with others, communicates, and behaves. Individuals with level 1 autism are vulnerable to impairment in processing social cues and have unsuccessful social interactions, including difficulty making and sustaining friendships.

They can be misunderstood and even ostracized by their peers. Due to their decreased ability to self-regulate and adapt, they may also struggle with transitions and change. Impaired executive functioning will necessitate additional support.

Some common autism level 1 symptoms include:[iii]

  • Trouble understanding or complying with social conventions
  • May appear disinterested in social interactions
  • May have emotional or sensory dysregulation
  • Need for personal organization strategies
  • Behavioral rigidity and inflexibility
  • Excessively perseverating on a single topic of interest

How Is Level 1 Autism Diagnosed?

Autism diagnosis begins with developmental monitoring. Parents, family members, childcare workers, teachers, and your pediatrician can all be involved in the monitoring process. The CDC reports that a diagnosis can be made as early as 18 months, so monitoring for developmental milestones is important to identify the need for early intervention.

If you or your doctor suspect autism, a developmental screening can be initiated. During the screening, you will be asked questions about your child’s milestones, communication, and behavior. Observations and questionnaires are important in this initial step.

Autism evaluations are performed by specialists who will be able to identify if the child meets the criteria for an autism diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is made, interventions and services are recommended to the parents. [iv]

A level 1 autism test will identify the type and level of support necessary to help the patient.

How Does Level 1 Autism Compare to Level 2 and Level 3?

Level 1 autism is the mildest degree of severity; compared to level 2 and level 3 autism, it is less disruptive but still can cause significant impairments in the child’s quality of life.

Level 1 Autism vs. Level 2 Autism

While those with level 1 autism may struggle to understand social rules, those with level two may exhibit more marked deficits in social communication, even with supportive intervention. They may have inadequate or impaired responses to social interactions. Where people with level 1 autism may show some stress during transitions, those with level 2 autism may show more severe distress.

Level 1 Autism vs. Level 3 Autism

Level 3 autism is the most severe type, and individuals here may need intense one-on-one assistance at school or home.

Individuals with level 3 autism may have more limited verbal development or may even be nonverbal. Level 1 autism may present with some rigidity to schedules or behaviors, but those with level 3 may experience extreme distress when tasks or schedules are changed. Can Level 1 Autism Be Cured?

Autism of any level is a lifetime condition; there is currently no known cure. However, it is possible to help autistic individuals achieve a higher quality of life. Early diagnosis and clinical intervention are crucial for the best outcomes. The earlier a child is diagnosed, the earlier they can begin receiving treatment, interventions, and services to aid their development.

Treatment offered at the Drake Institute can help those on the autism spectrum achieve better clinical outcomes. While autism level 1 cannot be cured, it can be improved with proper treatment.

How Does The Drake Institute Treat Autism?

For over 40 years, the Drake Institute has used advanced treatment technologies to treat various brain-based disorders such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and stress illnesses/disorders like PTSD, anxiety, depression, insomnia, tension headaches, and more.  Using a combination of brain mapping and neurofeedback, our Medical Director creates customized treatment protocols to address each patient’s needs.

Brain Mapping

Treatment begins with mapping the autistic patient’s brain. It is non-invasive and painless and identifies which areas of the brain are experiencing dysregulation linked to symptoms. 19 sensors are placed around the scalp in areas of the brain responsible for language, social/emotional understanding, focus, memory, executive functioning, and behavioral/emotional regulation.

The sensors measure and record brainwave activity that is processed through a normative FDA-registered database of same-age individuals with neurotypical brain activity.

When we compare the patient’s QEEG results with those of neurotypical individuals, we can identify regions or networks of the brain that are dysregulated linked to symptoms. Once we’ve located the specific dysregulated areas responsible for symptoms, we can design an individualized treatment protocol.


When the brain sees the results of how it is functioning via visual and auditory feedback, one’s brain can change what it is doing and modify its activity in a more functional desired direction.

During neurofeedback training, sensors are once again placed on the scalp. The sensors display brainwave activity in real-time on a computer screen along with auditory feedback.

During neurofeedback treatment sessions, the patient will learn to improve brain activity by guiding it toward healthier, more appropriately functional brainwave patterns. No drugs are administered, and there are no invasive procedures involved. Instead, the patient is improving their own brain functioning, using their own brain resources guided by visual and auditory feedback.


As an adjunct to neurofeedback, we may also use neurostimulation guided by qEEG brain map findings to gently stimulate the brain into healthier functional patterns. In our experience, some patients may benefit even more from neurofeedback if we also use neurostimulation. We have found this particularly helpful for lower-functioning children on the Autism Spectrum.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

For more than forty years, the Drake Institute has helped thousands of patients with brain-based disorders like Autism, ADHD, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more achieve a reduction in symptoms and a higher quality of life. Call us at 800-700-4233 or fill out the free consultation form to get help.


[i] https://carleton.ca/pmc/level-1-autism-spectrum-disorder-formerly-known-as-aspergers-syndrome/

[ii] https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/signs.html

[iii] https://psychcentral.com/autism/levels-of-autism

[iv] https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/screening.html

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“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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