What’s severe autism, also knowns as level 3 autism?
Severe autism is where the autistic person resists social contact and all attempts to communicate with them are ignored They require very substantial support. This is my son, Charlie.
You can learn more about the different autism severity levels here.
Recognizing that severe autism is a reality for many autistic people is not saying that high-functioning autism is easy. I know firsthand that it’s not. But, I’m also aware that being able to advocate for myself is a privilege — a privilege offered to me by my ability to express feelings and ideas. I feel fortunate that my autism is not severe. But it doesn’t mean I don’t need support. And it doesn’t mean it’s not disabling. I like the analogy of someone who’s visually impaired compared to someone who’s legally blind. They suffer from the same condition, but clearly not to the same degree. Being able to see a little bit is a much different experience than seeing nothing at all. It’s almost as if many who speak publicly about higher-functioning autism feel threatened by severe autism. Like it’s belittling to them and their experience. As if it admits to the world that their experience being autistic isn’t comparable or is somehow easier for them or less impressive. It’s not. It would be admitting that their experience as high-functioning individuals doesn’t give them insights into the mind of every autistic. And therefore, it would be admitting that they are in no place to speak over parents of severely autistic children.
Stop denying severe autism exists
Yes, I’m frustrated with the narrative that severe autism doesn’t exist, and that functioning labels and severity levels are ableist. I find them useful. Severity levels are a great way to explain why someone, like me, with an autism diagnosis, can share her thoughts on social media, while some autistics are so severely impacted by autism that they can’t communicate basic needs and live independently, let alone keep themselves safe or use social media. Keep in mind, that just because someone has struggles that are more severe than yours doesn’t mean your struggles aren’t valid. They’re just different.
Don’t speak for an entire community. Remember that your experience with autism is your own, and yours only.