April is Autism Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness of autistic spectrum disorders in a continued effort to improve the quality of life for those struggling. Nationally, a puzzle piece is known to be a symbol for autism awareness because each puzzle piece is different, representing the diversity of the individuals affected, just as each individual case of autism is unique. The reason for classifying autism within the autistic spectrum is because every individual may have a variety of symptoms while simultaneously lacking other symptoms that are commonly associated with autism. In fact, sometimes autism can be difficult to fully identify for this reason.
In 2013, new diagnostic criteria were developed to identify autism within three levels of support. However, there are no particular criteria that would automatically assign someone to a level as each case varies greatly. The term “high-functioning autism” refers to a person who may have mild symptoms of autism that are significant enough to warrant a diagnosis, yet who’s symptoms do not completely align with classic autism. This makes pinning down a diagnosis difficult at times. The diagnosis of Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder refers to those who are functional yet exhibit symptoms of autism.