Winner of the South African and SADC Award
Category: Education and Training: Private Sector

Ilana Gerschlowitz

Star Academy Managing Director

I was raised on a farm in the Free State and moved to Johannesburg to pursue a career in law. I completed a Commerce Degree (B. Com) through the University of South Africa in 1996. My studies continued and I completed a Law Degree (LLB) at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1998. After specialising in labour law, I was admitted as an Attorney in 2000 and practised as a Labour Lawyer until autism changed my life forever.

When my son David received an autism diagnosis in 2004 , I immersed myself into hours of research. I demanded answers and solutions: there were no complications at birth and for the first 18 months of his life he had normal development. But over time, I had witnessed his slow regression into the world of autism. I was resolute in my commitment to somehow get him back.

Determined to find a solution, I immersed myself into finding treatment options. Hours became days and even months as I searched for answers. Refusing to believe that nothing could be done, I researched every possible avenue of information on autism, until I found a way that opened up the possibility of hope for my son and our family.

In 2009, I hosted the first Challenging Children’s Conference in South Africa where I provided a platform for the presentation of the latest developments on autism treatments. For the first time in SA, the Conference successfully created an awareness that autism is in fact treatable and that recovery is possible. Meeting Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh who presented at the Conference was life changing for our family and many other families in South Africa. Dr Granpeesheh is the Founding Director of the USA based Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), world leaders in autism treatment. With her assistance we established the Star Academy, an Academy providing ABA instruction to children with autism.

Over the years which have passed, I have dedicated myself to helping other parents, whose children have been affected by autism, in assisting them to make informed decisions about treatment options.I have also studied towards and attained my certification as a Board Certified Autism Technician (BCAT)

Today, my son David is a functional 15 year old who has learnt to communicate both verbally and by using a communication device to augment his communication. This result is due to the fact that he received an expert ABA program from CARD and years of biomedical intervention. He excels at gymnastics and continues to work hard everyday to learn new skills. Without the expertise of CARD he would not have a voice and would not be the functional boy he is today who can communicate with us.

The Star Academy continues on this special journey, having expanded locally to Pretoria and Durban, with satellite Academies extending as far afield as Zimbabwe and Ghana.

It has been a true privilege to experience the dedication of our Star Academy team. Their commitment to excellence, belief in the children they work with everyday and their expertise and skill continues to make a monumental difference to the children who attend our Academies. Lighting the way for the children, they work tirelessly to ensure that every child receives the best possible chance to learn new skills, overcome their challenges and catch up their delays.

My advice to other parents of children with autism is to empower yourself with knowledge and information so that you can arm yourself with the tools necessary to help your children. A top quality ABA program and biomedical intervention are key elements to consider when embarking on the fight against the condition we call autism. Do not despair there is much hope! Autism is treatable and recovery is possible!