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!

This article was created by the Star Academy’s Supervisor Jenna White and was published by several magazines including Living & Loving and All 4 Women: Living & Loving | All 4 Women | IOL

Healthy discipline alternatives to spanking children

It is now illegal to spank your child in South Africa, but you can still teach him right from wrong with these alternative discipline methods.

It is now illegal to spank your own child in South Africa. This new ruling was passed by the South Gauteng High Court on 19 October 2017. Although smacking a child (your own or someone else’s) in the home environment has always been classified as an assault, there was previously a loophole where the parent could plead the special defence of “reasonable chastisement” in the event of being taken to court on the matter. This common law defence has now been revoked by the South Gauteng High Court’s ruling, which has rendered this plea inadmissible and not in keeping with the Constitution.

Corporal punishment in schools has also been banned for 21 years, as well as psychological abuse.

So what does this mean for parents who spank their kids from time to time at home? The court emphasised that the intention is not to charge parents with a crime, but rather to guide and support parents in finding more positive and effective ways of disciplining children.

Response to judgement

“This judgement is a significant statement to parents to rethink their disciplinary procedures and to ask themselves whether the current measures in place for discipline are resulting in the desired outcomes,” says Supervisor Jenna White of the Star Academy, which specialises in behaviour intervention programmes.

“As a behaviourist, I am in agreement with the court’s decision,” says Jenna, who advises that when dealing with a problem behaviour, the first step is to determine why it is occurring. Often, communication difficulties are at the root of problem behaviour. Teaching and reinforcing communication skills such as asking for something or expressing an emotion, allows the child the opportunity to have their needs met in an appropriate and pro-social way, so that they no longer need to engage in challenging behaviour.

We asked you whether you agree with this ruling, or if you think parents should be allowed to spank their kids. Here’s what you said:

“I don’t agree. I will continue spanking my kids. I know what’s best for my kids. I can’t hurt them. My kids, my decision on how to discipline them. My kids, my rules on how to raise them – after all I’m their mom. I love them so much. I care, protect, provide and pray for them, unless government thinks that they can manage to do all I mentioned above.” Esther Thibela

“I agree. There are better ways to ‘teach’ a child manners and discipline than by hitting them. If one adult hits another adult, it is called assault. If one child hits another child, it is called bullying.
If an adult/child hits an animal it is called animal abuse. Yet it has always been OK for an adult to use their strength on a child who is weak and can’t defend themselves. In my personal opinion, this is good news. It will hopefully motivate parents to look into alternative methods of discipline. I use reward and repercussions and my four-year-old is pretty decent, thank you. Hidings instill fear. So while your kid may listen, they haven’t necessarily learnt anything.” – Sarisha Riona Singh

“The government should focus on a way to stop child murders and rape and not tell us how to parent. If they want to tell us how to raise our kids then they might as well collect all children after birth at the hospital and raise them. Let’s see if they can give them more love, attention, clothes, food, money etc, than the parent.” – Elize Petersen

“There is a difference between assault and disciplining. If you cannot discipline your children without respecting their humanity then you should be in jail. Relationship is key to effective discipline. You cannot have one without the other.” – Zalisa Mkentane

Alternative discipline methods you can try

“Behaviour can be improved by increasing the relevant skills, and managing the difficult behaviour when it does occur. Smacking is just dealing with a problem behaviour after it occurs, and not in the most effective way,” says Jenna. Rather use a behaviour intervention plan, which is not only reactive in response to the behaviour, but is also proactive – empowering children with alternatives and skills so they don’t engage in problem behaviour.

One of the most effective alternatives in dealing with challenging behaviour and enforcing discipline is by using the principles of Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA).

Applied Behavioural Analysis focuses on three elements using the acronym ABC as follows:

1.) Antecedent (what happens before the behaviour)

2.) Behaviour

3.) Consequence (what happens after the behaviour).

Jenna explains that when looking at a particular challenging behaviour, if we change what happens at A or what happens at point C, it is possible to change the challenging behaviour. “This mindset could assist parents in using the techniques of Applied Behavioural Analysis when considering disciplinary procedures,” she adds.

What is gentle discipline and how does it work?

An example of using antecedent intervention:

If you know your child always complains about having to go and bath, you could implement antecedent modification by preparing your child in advance by explaining that bath time will be at a certain time instead of just calling the child away from a desired activity to go and bath. This antecedent modification allows the child time to transition to the idea that bath time is coming up soon.

An example where consequence intervention can decrease inappropriate behaviour:

If your child is throwing a tantrum because he can’t get a sweet or toy, wait until he is calm before explaining to him that he can use appropriate language to communicate his desire for a lollipop or toy by asking for one instead of screaming. The child learns that when they scream, they don’t get what they want, but when they ask nicely, they do.

“Of course each child is different and that is why it is essential to create a tailor-made programme, which deals with the needs of each particular child,” says Jenna. She adds that rules and healthy discipline are important for children to understand boundaries. It makes them feel safe.

“Healthy discipline teaches kids to find different avenues rather than exhibiting challenging behaviour in order to get their needs met. In this environment, children learn that there are appropriate consequences for their actions. In this context, discipline is a learning experience, providing kids the opportunity to learn from their mistakes in a safe and loving environment,” concludes Jenna.

“I can remember the frustration of not being able to talk. I knew what I wanted to say, but I could not get the words out, so I would just scream.” — Dr Temple Grandin

Llana Gerschlowitz

Autism is a spectrum disorder, manifesting in many different ways and different degrees in terms of its impact on each child. It is often a world of silence, where children on the spectrum are challenged to cope with deficits in basic skills that most of us take for granted. For a child on the spectrum, this can mean challenges in speech and language, social interaction, play and cognition. Additional deficits may include academic, adaptive and executive functioning skills, which impact heavily on the child and the family.

This silence deepens as cases of autism become more prevalent and more pervasive. A new government survey of parents in the US suggests that 1 in 45 children, ages three to 17, have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is notably higher than the official (US) government estimate of 1 in 68 American children with autism, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Because the new numbers come from a parent survey, they don’t replace the CDC’s 1-in-68 figure as the official estimate of autism prevalence in the US. However, the CDC has ac knowledged that its estimate has significant limitations. As such, it can miss children who are not receiving medical or special education services related to autism.

Back in our home territory, South Africa, we do not as yet have accurate statistics of cases of autism, but the Star Academy receives at least 20 calls a week from parents around South Africa whose children have received an autism diagnosis and who are in need of expert education programs and medical care.

In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association revised the diagnostic criteria for autism, resulting in broadening the parameters of the spectrum. Today this encompasses anything from brilliant scientists, artists, and musicians to an individual who cannot dress herself. However the symptoms may manifest, no two children show autism symptoms in the same way. One symptom that many children do share is the inability to make an intelligible sound.

“In our world, where the internet of things has brought communication more to the forefront than ever, this can be a torturous experience for parents. As silence gives way to screams or crying, parents can’t always know what is causing the problem. Are they in pain? Did they have a bad dream? Is something troubling them?” explains Ilana Gerschlowitz, Board Certified Autism Technician (BCAT) and director of The Star Academy, experts in education and intervention using evidence-based Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) as a tool to help children with autism.

“As parents, we want to do everything in our power to protect our children, to keep our child out of harm’s way as much as is humanly possible,” says the BCAT graduate who is also mother to a 14-year-old with an autism diagnosis.

Imagine watching your child screaming or crying. You know that something is desperately wrong, but you don’t know what it is, and often there is nothing you can do to make it better. You try. Does she want her favourite toy? Is her tummy sore? You find yourself going through all the possibilities which helped the last time. Only this time, it’s not working. Eventually, from sheer exhaustion, the screams abate. Your heartbeat slows down, and silence envelopes your child’s world once more.

These are the resultant challenges of autism which are highlighted on World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD). Activities on the day draw attention to the global prevalence of autism by shedding light on the condition. This day is a call to help those who are undiagnosed and misunderstood, for all children with ASD around the world.

Left untreated, autism can be a debilitating diagnosis. A child may not speak or effectively communicate their needs or feelings. Other symptoms may include struggling to fall and stay asleep, picky eating, inability to establish or maintain friendships and hyperactivity. Children on the spectrum struggle to occupy themselves and find it challenging to learn from the natural environment the way typically developing children do.

So, is there hope for children with autism? Evidence says there is. Early diagnosis means early intervention, key factors in impacting on a child on the spectrum. This can facilitate access to special education programs, crucial for children with speech delays and other skill deficits.

“Despite the highs and lows experienced when it comes to having a child with autism, the message of WAAD is one of hope,” says Gerschlowitz, who is a passionate advocate on helping children with autism to lead as fulfilling a life as possible.

“Receiving early intervention in the form of ABA means autism need not be a lifelong disability and children can recover. Not every child will recover completely, but they can certainly make progress towards leading functional and independent lives,” she explains. She’s seen many cases of the positive impact of interventions that help children with autism diagnosis. The key is creating awareness so that children can have the opportunity to receive the necessary intervention in the form of specialised education programs and a biomedical treatment protocol.

The Star Academy observed a Wold Autism Awareness Day in April this year where participants wore blue – the colour that is globally associated with showing support for WAAD. “We invite[d] South Africans to show solidarity for children on the autism spectrum with something blue — be it a scarf, a T-shirt, or a tie. Together we can send a strong message of support: we can give a voice to our children, creating awareness which can help break through the silence of autism,” concludes Gerschlowitz.

About Gerschlowitz

She is a mom to three boys. Two of them have received an autism diagnosis. David, who is 14 years old, continues to improve and receives expert treatment for the condition, and four-year-old Aaron has fully recovered and attends a mainstream school.

According to Gerschlowitz, red flags in a young developing child include:

  • delayed speech;
  • not responding when you call their name;
  • poor eye contact;
  • lining up toys or spinning the wheels of a car instead of appropriate play;
  • not pointing for communication, and being unaware of environmental stimuli such as an aeroplane flying over;
  • The child appears to be in its own world, won’t follow receptive instructions and adheres strictly to routines, being inflexible should they be changed; and
  • Repetitive behaviours such as hand-flapping of toe-walking can also be observed.

Llana Gerschlowitz is the director of the Star Academy – a facility for autism and related disorders

WAVERLEY – ‘Empower yourself with information on treatment options as autism need not be a lifelong disability’

To commemorate World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) on 2 April The Star Academy in Waverley conducted a special tribute.

The academy commemorated the day by releasing blue balloons into the sky and also by lighting candles. The colour blue is used worldwide for autism awareness and on World Autism Awareness Day, people and organisations across the world showed their support in various ways.

“The significance is that it symbolises freeing our children’s voices and empowering them with an opportunity to express themselves. The reason for Autism Day is to create awareness and empathy for families living with this diagnosis,” explained Ilana Gerschlowitz, managing director and founder of The Star Academy South Africa.

Gerschlowitz is also the winner of the 2016 CEO Global award for Africa’s most influential woman in business and government in the education and training private sector.

“Our team holding the tea lights symbolises that their work with children with autism is shining a light in the dark so [that] the children can follow the light and be guided by the light out of the darkness. Light symbolises hope and the message of The Star Academy is one of hope for parents and children with autism. The flame also represents miracles and reminds us to have faith and to never give up, as miracles do happen,” she said.
World Autism Awareness Day is not a day of celebration but rather a day to think about all those affected directly or indirectly by the disorder. Autism can be a very debilitating diagnosis for both children and adults if it is left untreated. Families living with kids diagnosed with autism need to be supported as autism can be very taxing emotionally, physically and financially.

According to Gerschlowitz there currently isn’t a body in South Africa that records autism statics on a regular basis, but The Star Academy reported that it receives at least 20 calls a week from parents asking for services for their children who have received an autism diagnosis.

“When we talk about autism, we talk about a spectrum diagnosis. You can have a child that is severely affected by autism, who is struggling to even speak vocally; on the other hand, you can have a high-functioning child who has got vocal ability but is struggling to create and maintain friendships,” said Gerschlowitz.

“To the parents, my message is one of hope. Empower yourself with information on treatment options as autism need not be a lifelong disability,” concluded Gerschlowitz.”

WAVERLEY – Read how The Star Academy is making a difference in the lives of the disadvantaged through their outreach programme.

The Star Academy has partnered with Tembisa Hospital to help families in the community affected by autism.

This was done through the Tembisa Outreach Programme.

Akil Seema, manager and supervisor at The Star Academy explained that the programme was started after the hospital’s psychology department approached them. “The department was inundated with parents coming in with their kids and although they [staff of the department] suspected autism, they were not really able to help them because of various factors hindering them,” he said.

“They then reached out to us and we decided that it was something very important for us to do, to reach out and uplift the community.”

Seema added that they helped out by providing training for the department and showing them how the programme worked.

He added that the academy hoped the programme would continue and eventually become a stand-alone initiative that would help parents who have autistic children.

The Star Academy, based in Waverley, is an educational centre focused on providing autistic children or those with a related disorder with appropriate expertise.

JOBURG – Read how one educational centre is giving hope to families affected by autism.

The Star Academy kicked off autism awareness month last week with a message of hope that autism was a treatable illness and recovery is possible.

This was the message from Ilana Gerschlowitz, director of the academy, at the recent commemorative event hosted by the organisation in Waverley. Gerschlowitz explained that it was important to host the event as it was a way to create awareness of the condition, how it affects children and how it can be treated.

“People are just starting to really learn about autism and it remains a struggle to get the necessary help because of certain constraints such as funding and support from government and medical aid schemes,” Gerschlowitz said.

“Despite this, there have been positive developments made and interventions available, including the Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) programme, which is evidence-based and has proven to be a medical necessity for kids with autism.”

The ABA programme is the application of principles of behaviour that are socially important. The programme applies differently to everyone as each individual in the autism spectrum presents different symptoms and the focus is to look at behavioural excesses and skill deficits, usually in the areas of communication and social interactions.

Also present at the event was Jenna White, a case worker at the academy, who stressed the importance of increasing awareness, especially during April.

“We are definitely getting there with raising awareness, but we need to do more, especially for the families affected by autism who face constant judgement whenever they go out with their autistic children,” she said. To this end, the academy was working with various schools and had an outreach programme in Tembisa to help raise awareness about the condition.

Gerschlowitz concluded by expressing gratitude for the continued support given to the academy, reiterating that there was hope for those affected. “For parents and kids there is hope, especially through the ABA approach because it helps the children learn how to become functional members of society.”

The Star Academy is an education centre focused on providing children with autism or a related disorder with an appropriate education.

The commemorative event took place on 1 April while World Autism Awareness Day was commemorated on 2 April.

JOBURG – AS THE world commemorated World Autism Awareness Day, parent Violet Dzvuke whose child suffers from autism and attends The Star Academy, cried out for government intervention.

The awareness day on 2 April focuses on autism and the children and

families who live with the challenges of this condition. The aim is to create awareness through informing the public about autism. The month of April also marks World Autism Month.

Ilana Gershlowitz, director of The Star Academy, provides tailor-made programmes for children with autism. Autism is a lifelong, complex condition that occurs as a result of disordered brain growth, structure and development. It is believed to stem from a genetic predisposition, possibly triggered by environmental factors, and affects four to five times more boys than girls. Autism is generally detected before the child is three years old.

Gershlowitz said, “Autism is a treatable medical condition and recovery is possible.”

Dzvuke, has a five-year-old daughter who is autistic. Miranda, who loves music and dancing, started off not being able to speak, but now has to now having over 50 words in her vocabulary.

Miranda’s mother spoke about the challenges she faces on a daily basis.

“The public does not know there is a bigger problem in my life than what it seems,” she said. She went on to say that she dreams of the day she can step out of her house and people will know her child is autistic without her constantly having to explain herself.

Dzvuke spoke about the support needed not only from society but government as well.

“I would love for government intervention and for nurses to be aware of this condition, as the earlier it is detected the easier it becomes for the child. Financial support is needed from government,” she said.

Gershlowitz, who has an autistic child herself, lamented the limited resources available in South Africa and has called on government for funding. She said the needs of autistic children are not being met due to the lack of funds.