By Michelle Poirier

On April 18, the Town of Georgina and Mayor Quirk proclaimed April as Autism Awareness Month in Georgina.

“To raise awareness about autistic individuals, to recognize the needs of people on the autism spectrum and their families, and acknowledge the need to support, understand, accept, include and empower people on the autism spectrum,” the proclamation reads.

Robin Konstantopoulos, owner and director of Autism Unplugged Learning Centre, was grateful for the acknowledgment.

“To have the Town rally behind us is a huge sentiment and acknowledgment for autism as a whole because there’s so many more children and families affected by autism than people realize,” she said.

Konstantopoulos has been advocating for children with autism for over a decade, and with Autism Unplugged, she is providing much-needed resources to families with children on the autism spectrum and children with other behavioural concerns.

From starting the program out of her basement with four to five kids in 2016 to having people show up with their kids to her doorstep, she saw a greater need and decided in 2018 to incorporate and move into a formal setting.

They now have 50 full-time families in their regular programming.

“It just kept presenting itself, like somehow the universe just kept saying, you have to do this, you have to do this, and the more we did, the more word got out,” she said.

Autism Unplugged offers resources like applied behaviour analysis (ABA), after-school programs, social skills programs, and many other services for children with autism, behavioural issues, or learning disabilities.

Another program they offer the community is Building Bridges, which provides families with ABA therapy at a significantly discounted rate when parents pay out of pocket and are not currently receiving any funding from the government through the Ontario Autism Program.

She said a challenge for families has been finding specialized services, that it can be a struggle to find specialists who can see and help those with autism who may pass for neurotypical or just be seen as “quirky,” who may be doing well in some areas, but struggling in others.

“Even trying to find a psychologist that specializes in girls on the spectrum because girls on the spectrum look completely different than boys on the spectrum,” she said.

“We see that all the time; girls come in at age 10, 11, 12, and their moms are like, ‘I don’t know what’s going on with my daughter.’ And we test them, and sure enough, they’ve got autism.”

Konstantopoulos said something they offer to the community, free of charge, is developmental assessments.

“A family can come in and bring their child, even at 18 months or two years old, for a 45-minute appointment, and we can write a report for a family doctor,” she said.

“The family doctor can then sign off on an autism diagnosis, where otherwise you’d be waiting 18 months to 2 years with the government system. Or you’re paying privately and then looking at $4,000 plus for an assessment.”

She said once the families have the diagnosis confirmed, the families can come back, and they can walk them through funding options and programs.

She said when parents find out their child has autism, it can be scary, but it does not have to be.

“It just means the child learns differently. They need to be taught differently. And maybe it’ll take longer for their child, or maybe their child needs to be shown differently,” she said.

For more information on Autism Unplugged or to donate to the Building Bridges Program, you can visit