The Star Academy Managing Director, Ilana Gerschlowitx has been invited to participate in an incredible virtual Autism summit!! It’s a huge online event that is coming up soon that’s all about how to treat your child’s Autism. Ilana be speaking at it, sharing some of my most important strategies, tips and action steps.

The Autism Treatment & Recovery Global Summit features 25+ hand-selected doctors, health care professionals, moms who have successfully recovered their children from Autism, and other Autism experts from around the world. These people were picked specifically because of their in-depth knowledge, insights and experience in successfully treating Autism. We are going to show you exactly what you need to know about diet intervention and gut issues, nutritional supplements, Methyl-B12 Therapy, detoxification, and much much more! You’ll learn proven, cutting-edge strategies to gain control of your child’s health.

And since Ilana is one of the featured experts, you can claim a free ticket.

The Autism Treatment & Recovery Summit is Starting Soon…Did You Get You Free Tickets Yet? It’s going to be a incredibly valuable for anyone concerned about their Child’s health. Join us now!

If I could communicate one thing to General Practitioners, it would be that Autism is treatable. Asperger’s syndrome is one of several previously separate subtypes of autism which now fall under the umbrella od Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)…

Todd Ward, PhD, BCBA-D (

Dawn Mackey (Rethink)

Lauren Rivera-Whitlock, M.S. (Behavioral Intervention Certification Council)

Jamie Pagliaro (Rethink)

Most everyone in the field of behavior analysis is familiar with the Behavior Analyst Certification Board and its associated certifications for behavior analysts.  However, another certification is quickly gaining in popularity – one that is specifically tailored to autism treatment.  The credential is the Board Certified Autism Technician (BCAT), developed by the Behavioral Intervention Certification Council (BICC).

As mentioned on the BICC website, the organization was established in 2013 “to promote the highest standards of treatment for individuals with autism spectrum disorder through the development, implementation, coordination, and evaluation of all aspects of the certification and certification renewal processes. BICC is an independent and autonomous governing body for the BCAT certification program.”  The Executive Director of BICC, Lauren Rivera-Whitlock, participated in a recent webinar facilitated by Dawn Mackey of Rethink Behavioral Health, to provide an overview of the credential, and how it compares specifically to the Registered Behavioral Technician (RBT) credential provided by the BACB. 

Among the most distinguishing features of the BCAT is its exclusive focus on behavior analysis for the treatment of individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.   In fact, the BCAT is the only autism-specific credential for behavior technicians that is certified by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), according to Lauren, and is quickly becoming recognized by funding agencies, including Tricare, New Mexico Medicaid, Optum-United Behavioral Health, Magellan Behavioral Health, Care1st Health Plan, and Contra Costa Health Services, among others.

Moreover, Lauren noted that the BCAT is the only certification for front line ABA staff that requires a practicum.  Those seeking certification must obtain 15 supervised hours working specifically as a front-line staff carrying out treatment plans designed for individuals with autism. Qualified supervisors include Board Certified Behavior Analysts among other licensed professionals such as psychologists.  The practicum component is in addition to 40 hours of didactic training on the principles of ABA and is available to anyone with a high school diploma or the equivalent.

The exam itself contains 150 questions over 2.5 hours and has been administered throughout the United States and around the world.  The BCAT exam is provided on demand at participating test sites.  Lauren encourages agencies and offices to see how they can become a testing site, which requires no application fee.

The BCAT also distinguishes itself after a person becomes certified.  For example, the BCAT is the only credential for front line ABA staff that has Continuing Education requirements.  Certificants must obtain 12 CE credits every two years, 3 of which must be in ethics.  Additionally, the BICC administers rolling automated background checks on a monthly basis for continuous monitoring.  Thus, the BCAT can be automatically revoked contingent upon certain legal infractions.

For more information on the BCAT, including the BCAT Task List, handbook, BICC registry, and more, please visit, email, or call Lauren at (914) 820-9903.

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world,  bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog and its subsidiary services, bSciEntrepreneurial, bSciWebDesign, bSciWriting, bSciStudios and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  Dr. Ward has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward is passionate about disseminating behavior analysis to the world and growing the field through entrepreneurship. Todd can be reached at

Rethink Behavioral Health provides the tools every behavioral health provider needs to manage their practice and deliver quality ABA treatment effectively & efficiently. Rethink’s easy to use web-based software streamlines client care with sophisticated yet intuitive tools for both clinicians & administrators. For more information, visit

Lauren Rivera-Whitlock, M.S. is an accomplished educator and communications/government relations strategist, as well as journalist who has excelled in national and local television.  She began her professional career as a corps member in Teach for America, teaching 9th grade English at the largest high school in Houston, Texas. She went on to assist in the building of one of Houston’s first charter schools – YES College Preparatory School – in its inaugural year.

Lauren also has a Master of Science from the Columbia University, Graduate School of Journalism. She worked for CNN for five years, and then went on to work for the City University of New York (CUNY) and their Graduate School of Journalism, producing a show for CUNY-TV.  From there, she was recruited to serve as the Director of Public Information for the New York State Department of State, managing media for the NY Secretary of State, Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez. In that role, Lauren produced the NY State Electoral College of 2008, which finalized the selection of our 44th President of the United States. Subsequently, Lauren ran Hispanic outreach for the Census, a community which was historically undercounted in the Albany Region. Her team’s efforts contributed to a measured growth of the Hispanic population by 80%, soaring past the national average. She then returned back to television producing the morning show for the ABC affiliate in Albany, NY and later the CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C.

Lauren began her work in the field of behavioral therapy with the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD). Lauren is furthering her commitment to the field of behavioral therapy through her leadership as the Executive Director for the Behavioral Intervention Certification Council (BICC). BICC is the governing body for the Board Certified Autism Technician (BCAT) certification program.


Ilana Gerschlowitz interviewed on Autism live at 1 hr 30m – She Speaks to Shannon Penrod about Gold Reef City and the fact that no autistic children are allowed on the rides.

Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government for Education in the Private Sector Awarded to the Director of The Star Academy – Ilana Gerschlowitz

We are thrilled to announce that our Director of The Star Academy, Ilana Gerschlowitz, has been awarded as the Country Winner for South Africa, as well as the SADC South Winner in Education and Training: Private Sector, for Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government.

Ilana was honoured with the accolade at the annual CEO Global Awards Ceremony held in Johannesburg last week, in recognition of her tireless work as the driving force behind providing expert ABA services for children affected by autism in South Africa and other regions throughout Africa.

CEO Global provides a platform which honours the role of women who have leadership positions in the different regions of the African continent. This platform culminates annually in the awards ceremony to salute these women and their contribution to their respective sectors and communities across Africa.

This awards platform is launched as a 12 month programme each year. The programme is designed to uplift and recognise women across the African Continent, paying tribute to women who are consistently creating a positive impact through their different areas of expertise.

CEO Global have long been at the forefront of recognising women leading and achieving in their regional sectors, selecting winners after a lengthy process of considering thousands of nominations in 24 different sectors. The nominations are considered by a panel of 12 judges selected from prominent positions in business and government who consider each finalist’s information, projects and interviews. The final results are then audited by KPMG.

This award is a testament to Ilana’s vision, courage and commitment, acknowledging her work and the effectiveness and impact of the Star Academy’s ABA programmes on children with autism in the African region, both in the private education sector and for children in underprivileged communities. On accepting this prestigious award Ilana dedicated the award to the autistic children around the world for their bravery labeling them as the true winners of our society.

On a macro level the award provides a platform to create an awareness of the need for ABA services for autistic children in the African region while further providing the opportunity for people to understand that autism is in fact a treatable and often recoverable condition.

More young children 2 to 5 years of age receiving care for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) could benefit from psychological services – including the recommended treatment of behavior therapy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest Vital Signs report urges healthcare providers to refer parents of young children with ADHD for training in behavior therapy before prescribing medicine to treat the disorder.

ADHD is a biological disorder that causes hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and attention problems. About 2 million of the more than 6 million children with ADHD were diagnosed before age 6. Children diagnosed with ADHD at an early age tend to have the most severe symptoms and benefit from early treatment. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that before prescribing medicine to a young child, healthcare providers refer parents to training in behavior therapy. However, according to the Vital Signs report, about 75% of young children being treated for ADHD received medicine, and only about half received any form of psychological services, which might have included behavior therapy.

“Parents may feel overwhelmed with decisions about their child’s treatment for ADHD, but healthcare providers, therapists, and families can all work together to help the child thrive,” said Anne Schuchat, MD (RADM, USPHS), Principal Deputy Director, CDC.  “Parents of young children with ADHD may need support, and behavior therapy is an important first step.  It has been shown to be as effective as medicine, but without the risk of side effects. We are still learning about the potential unintended effects of long-term use of ADHD medicine on young children. Until we know more, the recommendation is to first refer parents of children under 6 years of age with ADHD for training in behavior therapy before prescribing medicine.”

The report looks at healthcare claims data from at least 5 million young children (2-5 years of age) each year insured by Medicaid (2008-2011) and about 1 million young children insured each year through employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) (2008-2014). In both groups, just over 75% of young children diagnosed with ADHD received ADHD medicine. Only 54% of young children with Medicaid and 45% of young children with ESI (2011) received any form of psychological services annually, which might have included parent training in behavior therapy. The percentage of children with ADHD receiving psychological services has not increased over time.

“Many families will benefit from behavior therapy. However, in some cases medicine may be appropriate,” said Georgina Peacock, MD, director of the Division of Human Development and Disability in CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “When healthcare providers and families know the benefits and risks of all available treatments, they are best prepared to make the most appropriate treatment choice for young children with ADHD.”

Parents do not cause their child’s ADHD, but parents can play a key role in the treatment of ADHD.  In behavior therapy, parents are trained by a therapist during eight or more sessions, learning strategies to encourage positive behavior, discourage negative behaviors, improve communication, and strengthen their relationship with their child. When applied, these skills can help the child at school, at home, and in relationships by improving behavior, self-control, and self-esteem. Learning and practicing behavior therapy requires more time, effort, and resources than treating ADHD with medicine, yet research shows that there are lasting benefits making it worth the investment.

In behavior therapy, therapists help parents build skills in guiding their child’s behavior. Skills may include, but are not limited to:

  • Positive communication:  When parents give children their full attention and reflect their words back to them, your child knows you are listening and care about what he has to say.
  • Positive reinforcement: Praise the child when she does something right. The more parents praise a behavior, the more likely it is the child will behave the same way again.
  • Structure and discipline: Children do better when their world is predictable. Set up routines and daily schedules to help the child know what to expect each day.  Respond to the child’s behavior the same way every time to help her learn more quickly.

CDC message to healthcare providers

CDC is calling on doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals who treat young children with ADHD to support parents by explaining the benefits of behavior therapy and referring parents for training in behavior therapy. This report recommends that healthcare providers:

  • Follow clinical guidelines (American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry) for diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in young children.
  • Discuss with parents the benefits of behavior therapy and why they should get training.
  • Identify parent training providers in the area and refer parents of young children with ADHD for training in behavior therapy first, before prescribing medicine.

The report highlights missed opportunities for young children with ADHD to benefit from behavior therapy. Increasing referrals and the availability of appropriate services could help many families with young children who have ADHD.

“We recognize that these are not easy treatment decisions for parents to make,” said Dr. Schuchat. “We know that behavior therapy is effective, and the skills parents learn can help the whole family be successful. Building these skills in parents and children empowers families and helps young children with ADHD live up to their full potential.”

For more information, visit: or


World Autism Awareness Day was initiated eight years ago to draw attention to the increasing prevalence and high rate of autism in children all over the world.

Designating the date as April 2, the UN National Assembly unanimously voted to establish this as an annual day to globally commemorate autism, in order to “highlight the need to help improve the lives of children and adults who suffer from the disorder so they can lead full and meaningful lives”.

Characterised by impaired social interaction

Autism is characterised by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behaviour. These signs all generally begin before a child is three years old.

However, there is evidence that with the right treatment, children with autism do not necessarily have to be subjected to autism as a lifelong condition, with cases of children with autism successfully recovering and many leading functional independent lives.

“Autism is a treatable medical condition and recovery is possible. This is the message of World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) that we want to share,” says Ilana Gerschlowitz, Managing Director of The Star Academy which specialises in tailor-made instructional programmes addressing the specific needs of each child presenting on the Autism Spectrum.

“Many individuals on the spectrum experience medical issues including gastrointestinal problems, immune system dysfunction, and metabolic abnormalities. For this reason, children on the Autism Spectrum often improve their symptoms on medications such as Cortizone and immunomodulators, rather than from psychiatric medication which is often prescribed as a first line treatment for these children,” says Gerschlowitz.

“Furthermore, they respond very well to many interventions including nutritional support, restricted diets, specifically designed educational programmes, together with Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) instruction.”

The ABA method of instruction, recommended by the American Academy of Paediatrics and the US Surgeon General, uses positive reinforcement as a key principle and has been empirically proven to be the most effective method for treating individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

School assists kids in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban

ABA is also a founding principle of The Star Academy whose facilities help children on the African continent in Ghana and Zimbabwe, while closer to home, the school assists children based in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban.

Despite progress in treatment, figures indicate an increase in the number of children with autism. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the major operating arms of the Department of Health and Human Services in the USA, estimates that about 1 in 68 children in American society has been identified with ASD.

This reveals a steady increase in the numbers of children affected: In 2007, the figure (based on 2002 data) showed 1 in 150 children had ASD, changing in 2009 (based on 2006 data) to 1 in 110.

Reports in 2012 (based on 2008 data) showed that 1 in 88 children, which means that the estimated prevalence of ASD has increased roughly 29% since 2008, 64% since 2006, and 123% since 2002. Currently 1 in 99 children born each day in South Africa are affected by the disorder, almost on par with the United Kingdom, where just over 1 in 100 children are affected with autism.

“The increase in the number of children affected may be a result of a broader definition of ASD together with improvements in diagnosis. However, according to the CDC, the stats may also reflect a real increase in the number of people with an ASD, resulting in the organisation attributing the increase in ASD diagnosis to a combination of these factors,” says Gerschlowitz.

World Autism Awareness Day plays a role in addressing the increasing numbers and other issues around ASD, creating awareness of the advantages of early diagnosis and intervention. The day is commemorated worldwide through special events, fundraisers and educational programmes.

WAAD opens doors

“As is the case with most communities, the autism community is often insular and WAAD opens the door between the world of autism and neurotypical people, allowing a sharing of respect through understanding of the condition and its impact on children and families globally.

“Solidarity is further expressed by businesses, municipalities and governments around the world by the lighting up of significant buildings and locations in blue light,” says Gerschlowitz.

Some of the iconic landmarks which have honoured the day by lighting up in blue include the Empire State Building in New York; the Eiffel Tower in Paris; the Leaning Tower of Pisa; Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to name but a few of the many places throughout the world which play a vital role in creating awareness around the condition of autism.

“WAAD is a significant day in the autism calendar, providing an opportunity for people to become involved and make a difference. We encourage children, parents, people in business, the private sector and at school to participate and show solidarity on the day.

By wearing something blue or sharing the global connection of lighting up in blue, we can all make South Africa part of this global initiative which provides a powerful message of support and hope for a better future through acknowledgement of the day,” says Gerschlowitz.

World Autism Awareness Month extends from throughout the month of April.


The Behavioral Intervention Certification Council (BICC) is a non‐profit organization established in 2013. BICC promotes the highest standards of treatment for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) through the development, implementation, coordination, and evaluation of certification programs. The twofold purpose of BICC is to (1) recognize individuals who are qualified to treat the deficits and behaviors associated with ASD using the principles and procedures of applied behavior analysis (ABA) and to (2) enhance public protection.

BICC was initially established with support from the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), a forprofit organization established in 1990. CARD was founded based on peer‐reviewed studies showing that intensive early intervention using ABA could effectively treat the core deficits and behaviors commonly associated with ASD. This treatment modality was considered a breakthrough at the time, given the history of autism being poorly understood clinically. Thousands of subsequent studies established the effectiveness of ABA in treating ASD, and 39 states now require private health plans to include coverage for ASD treatment using primarily ABA.

The success of ABA led to the formation of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) for certifying behavior analysts. Although BACB has been a collaborative organization, two limitations of its certification aroused significant concern. First, BACB certification does not require autism‐specific education, training, or experience, which raises concerns regarding effectiveness in a complex and highly challenging clinical environment. Second, BACB policy relies on certificants to self‐report professional license revocations and criminal convictions, which raises consumer safety concerns across multiple stakeholders, including healthcare plans, other caregivers, parents, and state policy makers.

In collaborative discussion of these issues, BACB indicated that it did not wish to change its eligibility requirements for certification and did not wish to create an ASD‐specific credential. Believing that ASDspecific certification is necessary for optimal care, CARD decided to launch a certification program to eliminate the existing certification gap and design the program to be at an accreditation‐level quality. Consistent with the criteria for accreditation, CARD supported the establishment of BICC as a separately incorporated, non‐profit organization to manage the development and administration of the certification program.

BICC’s first credential, the Board Certified Autism Technician (BCAT) was launched in 2015 with the first exam administered in July. Certification as a BCAT demonstrates autism‐specific competency by entry‐level individuals who work under the supervision of a qualified health professional. Initial NCCA accreditation for the BCAT program was achieved in November 2015.

Answering Her Calling

Jenna White is someone who has dedicated her life to the service of others, having found her true life’s calling in working with children with autism spectrum disorder. With a focus on psychology, her extensive qualifications include BA child and family psychology, BA Hons psychology and MMus Music Therapy.

Jenna, who has been working at The Star Academy since its inception in 2009, works as a Supervisor at the Star Academy and is currently completing her coursework and supervised experience so that she is eligible to sit for the BCBA exam later this year, which will make her the highest qualified ABA specialist in the country.

Experience at The Star Academy

“What makes The Star Academy so amazing is the outstanding leadership and guidance, the individualized and constant attention to each case, the camaraderie amongst therapists, and above all the wonderful and unique children with whom I have the privilege to work,” says Jenna.

Through experience, Jenna has learned that the diagnosis of autism pales in comparison to the achievements that can be made through a focus on and development of the abilities of each child. “Every child I have worked with at The Star Academy has taught me something I could not have learned elsewhere. With understanding, dedication and perseverance, the obstacles presented by autism can be overcome.”

Accreditation Achievement

Jenna has also joined The Star Academy team members in receiving BCAT certification for the ABA Board exam completed under the auspices of BICC (Behavioral Intervention Certification Council in America), accrediting her as having achieved mastery of the knowledge of applied behaviour analysis required to work effectively with individuals with autism spectrum disorder.

Invitation to the BICC Board

Additionally, Jenna has been invited to join the BICC Board, a role where she will assist in advancing the organisation’s mission to administer its certification programme in order to regulate the standard of expertise of professionals working with individuals with ASD and to ensure consumer safety.

“More specifically, my role is to help BICC understand the needs of the professionals and of the autism community in Africa,” says Jenna. This includes identifying circumstances that may be unique to Africa which the BICC board can take into consideration in developing additional certifications and scheduling the current exam, etc. Furthermore, Jenna will responsible for providing feedback on the different components involved in BICC’s services, from the website to the exam.

Congratulations, Jenna, from everyone at The Star Academy!

Incomplete digestion may be problematic in certain populations, especially those with immune system problems or food allergies. Those with autism are also prone to these problems. Learn how the use of digestive enzyme products support digestion and nutrient absorption.

Presented by: Dr. Devin Houston, Ph.D.

Dr. Houston obtained his doctorate in biochemistry from the University of South Alabama College of Medicine. His graduate work focused on enzyme discovery, and subsequent research at University of Virginia and Saint Louis University focused on enzymatic mechanisms involved in cellular communication. Dr. Houston followed his academic career with several years of research and development in enzyme manufacturing. This lead to his discovery of DPP-IV in certain enzyme blends and the eventual invention of the first proteolytic enzyme product targeted for those with autism. Dr. Houston then formed his own companies, Houston Nutraceuticals, Inc. and Houston Enzymes, in order to continue further development of novel enzyme products. Dr. Houston spends much of his time educating the public about enzymes and speaks at no cost at autism conferences and support groups.

Click here to register