Mild Autism In Children And Adults: Can Someone Be Slightly Autistic?

Last Update on June 6, 2024 : Published on June 6, 2024

Mild autism is level 1 of autism which is not an official term, still, some people use it to identify the very mild symptoms of autism or mild symptoms of autism. Some psychologists or researchers also refer to mild autism as high-functioning autism, although psychologically, it’s an incorrect term because the symptoms are quite different from each other. Generally, autism can be seen from the toddler years. 

Quick Fact-Check:

  • Mild Autism can also be referred to as high-functioning autism, Asperger’s syndrome, mildly autistic, and slightly autistic.
    • However, in order to get a diagnosis of the autism spectrum, you might need to wait till your child turns the age of three. Research shows that girls have the ability to mask their symptoms due to which they are diagnosed later than boys. 

      According to the autism spectrum, mild autism or level 1 autism is reflected by low support needs. When someone mentions “mild”, it can be misleading as the symptoms will have a direct impact on the sensory, communication, and developmental features. In this blog, we will be taking a deep look at mild autism behaviors, characteristics, symptoms, treatment, and more. So, let’s get started! 

      What is Mild Autism? 

      The term mild autism is used to refer to the least symptoms of the autism spectrum. People experiencing mild symptoms of autism can also get diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, however, the symptoms of mild autism will be counted under level 1.

      According to psychology, there are three levels of autism and level 1 autism reflects less support to function in regular lives. Such people struggle with social communication, hypersensitivity, and other sensory challenges but in a mild manner. Accordingly, children and adults show different signs of mild autism. 

      Characteristics of Mild Autism 

      According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5-TR), below are some of the common characteristics of mild autism: 

      • Early Onset: Research shows that autistic people have been autistic their entire lives which means neurodivergence begins before birth. 
      • Functional Deficits: Autistic people are not able to function properly at work, school, or in social situations. 
      • Social deficits: Autistic people mostly interact in an abnormal way wherein they can’t express or interpret cues which can cause social deficits. 
      • Repetitive Behaviors: Autistic people often repeat words, behaviors, or movements (referred to as stimming) due to altered sensory reactions. 
      • Other Causes: The presence of genetic conditions or early trauma also plays a major role. 

      Symptoms of Mild Autism in Children and Adults

      In children, autistic signs generally begin early from 12 to 18 months. In such cases, spotting such mild symptoms is important to connect with a health professional for better intervention and future. 

      Symptoms of Mild Autism in Infants or Toddlers 

      • Crankiness caused by loud noises 
      • Headbanging                                      
      • No babbling or making sounds by four months
      • No interest in games or activities 
      • Not pointing to objects by 14 months 
      • Not responding to name by 12 months
      • Persistent tantrum throwing

      Symptoms of Mild Autism in Children 

      1. Avoids eye contact
      2. Babbling or constantly repeating phrases 
      3. Explosive aggression or tantrums
      4. Fixation on certain activities, concepts, or background 
      5. Inspection of toys instead of playing 
      6. Lack of interest
      7. Lack of social skills or loss of language 
      8. Lack of response
      9. Missing physical or verbal cues
      10. Obsessive interests
      11. Poor eye contact 
      12. Repetitive gestures or constant flapping of hands 
      13. Repetitive verbal expressiveness or play 
      14. Sensory aversion or heightened sensitivity 
      15. Stereotypical behavior
      16. Solo playing 
      17. Unresponsiveness

      Symptoms of Mild Autism in Adults 

      Symptoms in adults with mild autism are difficult to spot as they have learned to suppress their symptoms in childhood which makes them less obvious. Here are some of the common symptoms of mild autism in adults: 

      • Difficulty relating to others or lack of empathy 
      • Difficulty maintaining a social circle
      • Difficulty in communicating or expressing feelings 
      • Trouble expressing your emotions 
      • Unable to be strict to a routine or plan a routine 
      • Unable to resist changes
      • Struggles with social anxiety

      Diagnosis of Mild Autism 

      If you think your loved one or children are struggling with mild symptoms of autism, you can connect with a certified and experienced mental health professional, neurologist, child psychiatrist, or paediatrician to seek the right diagnosis and support for mild autism

      The diagnosis process of mild autism involves: 

      • Autism diagnostic interview (ADI) 
      • Autism diagnosis observation schedule (ADOS)
      • Diagnostic interview for social and communication disorders (DISCO)
      • IQ testing 

      As per the guidelines mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), common criteria involved in the diagnosis of mild autism are: 

      • A child or adult must have constant deficits in social interaction and communication. 
      • A child or adult must have repetitive, restricted patterns of activities, interests, or behaviors. 
      • A child or adult must be struggling with symptoms from the early developmental period persistently. 

      The assessment process of mild autism includes a multidisciplinary approach which includes psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, speech-language therapists, and others. The assessment process of mild autism covers the below-listed steps: 

      • Detailed interview of parents or caregivers 
      • Professional observation on the basis of responses to different stimuli, behaviors, or communication skills
      • Conduction of standardized assessments such as Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), and others. 
      • Detailed review of developmental history such as developmental milestones, previous evaluations, interventions, and medical history
      • Collaboration with professionals to analyze and determine individual needs. 

      Treatment of Mild Autism for Children and Adults 

      For Children 

      Children with mild autism need to maintain a routine. Below are some of the common therapy options for mild autism in children: 

      1. Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) : ABA is one of the widely recognized therapy options for children and adults with mild autism. It helps in reducing behaviors, improving social interactions, acquiring new skills, and others. 

      2. Behavioral therapy: Try behavioral therapy for teaching accurate or appropriate behaviors. 

      3. Play therapy: You can try play therapy to teach emotional skills to the children. Additionally, it also helps in improving communication. 

      4. Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy helps in developing skills required for daily functioning such as self-care routines, sensory regulation, fine motor skills, and others. 

      5. Speech therapy: Try speech therapy to learn body language and effective communication skills. 

      6. Psychical therapy:  Physical therapy is specially designed to lower muscle tone and teach physical activities appropriate for autistic people. 

      7. Social Skills Training: Social skills training (SST) helps in improving communication and interaction abilities, building relationships, understanding social cues, navigating social situations, and others. 

      For Adults 

      For autistic adults with mild symptoms, it is important to focus on predictability and maintaining a routine. In such cases, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be helpful to develop healthy coping skills and manage social relationships with people. 

      How to Provide the Right Support for Mild Autism?

      For Children 

      1. Focus on providing social skills training. 
      2. Encourage children to participate in mental health counseling sessions.
      3. Get a customized diet plan for autism. 
      4. Seek the help of therapy to build fine motor skills.

      For Adults 

      1. Try to reduce sensory overload by using accommodations at work.
      2. Take the help of occupational therapy. 
      3. Try speech therapy for proper communication and interaction.

      Frequently Asked Questions

      Can a mild autistic child become normal?

      Yes, research shows that some children with mild autism who get proper therapy start engaging with the world and developing behavior as they grow. In some cases, they could also lead normal life in the future.

      Can mild autism be corrected?

      Research shows that there’s no exact cure for autism and there’s no exact treatment for treating autism. The goal of therapy is to support maximum functioning by reducing autism-related symptoms. Therapy helps in supporting better learning and development. In some mild cases, autism can be corrected with the right support and therapy techniques.

      Does mild autism go away with age?

      No, research shows that there’s no way to outgrow autism. Autism is a developmental disorder and the goal of treatment is to lower the symptoms and reactions.

      How serious is mild autism?

      People struggling with mild autism generally show mild impairments along with repetitive and restricted behaviors. Additionally, mild autism in children and adults can show up as infatuated abilities and strengths.

      I hope this blog helps you understand everything you want to know about mild autism or level 1 autism. Comment down and share your queries or you can also write us at

      For more such content, connect with us through all social media platforms. 

      Thanks for reading! 

      About The Author

      Aayushi Kapoor
      Aayushi Kapoor

      Aayushi is a Content Creator at Calm Sage. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Food Technology and a Master's Degree in Clinical Nutrition. Her constant interest in the improvement of mental health, nutrition, and overall wellness embarked upon her career as a “full-time educational writer.” She likes to make an asynchronous connection with her readers. Her mantra for living life is "What you seek is seeking you".

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