NVLD v. Asperger’s v. Autism Level 2

*** Defying Shadows turns Two this August! To Celebrate, we are going to spend the part of the month resharing some of our favourite posts! Enjoy! ***

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I am diagnosed with what used to be called Asperger’s Syndrome. With the release of the DSM-5, all autistic disorders are under the umbrella term Autistic Spectrum Disorder. This means that Asperger’s, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS),  and Disintegrative Disorder are no longer used to diagnose people. There is now a severity level system, with levels 1-3

Check out this site, for a better explanation on the level system than I could ever give

http://www.myaspergerschild.com/2013/09/the-dsm-5-severity-levels-of-autism.html

I am considered to have Autism Level 2, which is considered to require substantial support. I have low levels of social skills and repetitive behaviors obvious to outsiders. I’d say it’s a little more severe than Asperger’s, which most say is level 1. I was also told that once my mental illnesses are under control, I could move down to a level 1.

The description for level 2 fits me well as my parents and myself believe. I guess the person who tested me was correct.

There is one thing that sticks with me from the meeting my parents and I had with the testing psychologist. She said that at first, she thought I might have a nonverbal learning disability, or NVLD. She said she decided that I didn’t have that, because I was good at math. I had every other symptom of the disorder, but my math skills were better than is found in NVLD. That disorder is like a milder Asperger’s. A person with the disorder often has a hard time with body language, is clumsy, and difficulty with motor skills. To see all of the symptoms, visit

http://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/non-verbal-learning-disabilities/

I took the GADS, or Gilliam Asperger’s Disorder Scale, which asks about social skills, sensory behaviors, body and object use, among under sections to give a number of severity, between 0-3, with 3 being the most severe. I peeked at my parent’s answers, and was surprised. I expected their answers to give a lower score than I would on the form. When I looked at their answers, they showed a much higher final score. My score got me an Autism Level 1, while my parents answers got around an Autism Level 2 or 2 ½  for me. I turned them into the psychologist testing me, along with tests for ADHD and anxiety/depression. She gave me an IQ test. One of the tests was called the Kohs block test, where I had to make the design with blocks that had different designs on them. I was terrible at it. I skipped many of them, because I couldn’t figure them out, and I eventually told the person administering the test that I couldn’t do it any more. She timed me on each one and wrote it in her book about me. Then she gave me tests where I had to tell her what different figurative language phrases meant. I was even worse at this. She often asked me to go further in my explanation, which I could not do. Math problems were the easiest part for me. All I had to do was answer single digit addition, subtraction, and multiplication problems until the timer ran out. There were other tests that I do not remember as well.

The final session occurred the day after we got back from Disney World. This time, my parents came in with me. The psychologist started to tell us the results. She told me that I did not ADHD, but I definitely had and ASD, in which both disorders can cause inattention. I have an extremely hard time focusing on anything for too long. I had low verbal comprehension, perceptual skills, and processing speed. I did have high working memory skills. All of these results lead to Asperger’s or autism level 2 in my case. She also told me that I had bipolar 1 disorder instead of borderline personality disorder, but that story is for another time.

Basically, the level of severity of the three disorders are NVLD, then Asperger’s (although it is technically not a disorder now),and then Autism Level 2. The DSM changes things all of the time, and people are very upset that Asperger’s, Disintegrative Disorder and PDD-NOS are no longer their own disorders on the autism spectrum, and are now all labeled as Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD, with  the levels. This means that previously diagnosed kids had to retest because of the different criteria.

Testing for ASD is not fun, but it does teach you more about yourself. Whether you have NVLD or a level of autism, it helps you find resources to help you. My parent’s had wondered if I had Asperger’s for a while. The therapist and psychiatrist at one of my recent hospitalization suggested I get tested. My psychiatrist on the outside agreed and helped us find a good testing psychologist. The knowledge of your disorder can help, even if you didn’t realize that you had the symptoms at all. If your child has any symptoms, and is having a rough time, whether it be a NVLD or are any level of autism. , it could be helpful to look into an IEP for school, and if needed occupational and speech therapy.

Finding resources for any of the disorders is harder as an adult, as I know. There are less social skills groups or therapists for adults. I have no options near me that don’t charge $400 for a small number of once a week social skills group and takes my family’s insurance.There are also no adult occupational therapists that could work with me. With more people getting diagnosed with any of the disorders as an adult, you would think there would be more options. We didn’t get help when we were younger because we were not diagnosed.

All of the disorders have similar symptoms, and can be hard to tell apart. Make sure that the person diagnosing you has a good reputation due to their former diagnoses of people.
Any developmental or learning disorder can be hard,  but they do not mean life is over. It might mean that you need extra help that no one thought of earlier, but getting that help can change your life in a positive way. I am now finding techniques to help myself, and I am getting other suggestions all the time. A diagnosis is not a dead end. It is the start of a wrong turn turning into an opportunity to find a better way to get to where you are going.

Alex

 Alex is currently working on expanding her blogging and writing skills so she can become a journalist someday. She is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. She hopes to help spread awareness about mental illness and autism spectrum disorders and end the stigma on both.

You can follow Alex H on Facebook, Twitter and her personal blog.

One thought on “NVLD v. Asperger’s v. Autism Level 2

  1. I hope someday you can get past the disorder concepts and think of autism as a condtion, rather than something that’s wrong 🙂

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