All about Autism: A Q&A Session with Dr. Caroline Roncadin

To celebrate the final week of Autism Awareness Month, we are excited to share a Question and Answer session with Kinark’s Dr. Caroline Roncadin, Clinical Director, Autism Services. In the Q&A, Dr. Roncadin takes the time to answer common questions parents have about Autism.

Please share to help raise awareness about Autism.

All about Autism: A Q&A Session with Dr. Caroline Roncadin, C.Psych., Clinical Director of Kinark’s Autism Services

CarolineGood morning, Dr. Roncadin. Thank you for taking the time to join us, and answer common questions about Autism.

Dr. Roncadin: Thank you. I’m glad to have the opportunity to answer your questions, especially as a way to further raise awareness during Autism Awareness Month.

Question: What is Autism?

Dr. Roncadin: Autism is a complex disorder in individuals from all walks of life, as well as their families, friends, and caregivers. It falls on a continuum that affects individuals differently, but primarily impacts social, communication, and behavioural functioning.

Question: How common is Autism?

Dr. Roncadin: According to the Centers for Disease Control in the United States, the prevalence rate is 1 in 68. It is 4 to 5 times more prevalent in boys than in girls.

Question: I remember hearing years ago that the rate was 1 in 2000. Why is the incidence increasing?

Dr. Roncadin: Research indicates an increase in overall incidence of Autism. However, we must take into account the new broader definition of Autism which now falls under a single diagnostic category called “Autism Spectrum Disorder.” There is also increased awareness as well as more systematic assessment practices.

Question: What causes Autism? If it’s more common in boys than girls, does that mean that it’s related to genetics?

Dr. Roncadin: The cause of Autism is not known. However, ongoing research is investigating genetic and environmental factors, and interactions between them, as possible factors.

Question: What are the signs and symptoms of Autism?

Dr. Roncadin:

In general, individuals with Autism have social, communication, and behavioural concerns. These often present early in life and can include: poor eye contact, limited interactions with others, delayed or unusual language, poor use of nonverbal communication (e.g., gestures, body language), insistence on sameness, repetitive movements, and hyper or hypo reactivity to sensory input.

Each child with Autism has a unique profile of strengths and needs. Some may have great memory for facts or may learn best through routines and special interests.

Question: What should a parent or caregiver do if they suspect that a child has Autism? Who can diagnose Autism?

Dr. Roncadin: A diagnosis can only be made by a qualified, licensed physician, psychologist, or psychological associate using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) criteria. Parents should visit their child’s pediatrician or family doctor for a referral to a specialist if they are concerned.

Question: I heard that children with Autism cannot be diagnosed with other disorders. Is that true?

Dr. Roncadin: No. In fact, many individuals with Autism also have other diagnoses at some point in their lives, such as mental health diagnoses related to intelligence, attention, or anxiety disorders, or medical conditions, like seizures or gastrointestinal issues.

Question: What services does Kinark offer children with Autism?

Dr. Roncadin: Kinark offers Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) through our Central East Autism Program. We also offer the Connections for Students Program through our School Support Program for clients exiting IBI and transitioning to school. Both are funded by the provincial government.

Question: Now that kids are back to school, is there any advice you can offer parents of a child that has Autism?

Dr. Roncadin:

  • Provide your child’s teacher with helpful information about your child, such as their interests, likes and dislikes, as well as any special communication, medical, or other considerations that the school staff should know.
  • Make sure you have a strong support system for your child and family.
  • Celebrate the successes.

Question: How do I contact Kinark to receive services?

Dr. Roncadin: Parents whose child has a confirmed diagnosis of Autism should call our Central Intake number: 1-888-454-6275.

Question: Can you suggest resources to learn more about Autism?

Dr. Roncadin:

We have some great facts and tips on our website www.kinark.on.ca under Services, then by clicking Autism Services.

Other great resources include Autism Ontario (www.autismontario.com), Autism Speaks (www.autismspeaks.ca), and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/specialneeds/Autism/index.aspx)

Thank you, Dr. Roncadin!