How to find the RIGHT autism expert to advise on doctors, diagnosis and treatment

By autism specialist Ilana Gershlowitz

An autism expert is a person who is knowledgeable, experienced and skilful in the field of autism. It’s a medical doctor or clinician who has researched the causes and treatments for autism. In addition, the best way to learn about autism treatments, is to gain wisdom from other parents in the same boat.

What is autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), autism affects an estimated 1 in 44 children in the United States. Although we don’t have a body taking accurate statistics, the numbers are similar in South Africa. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, on the one end of the spectrum, you can have an individual who can talk but can’t fit into social settings and on the other end of the spectrum, you can have an individual who is non-verbal and can’t talk at all. Each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. Signs of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3. Autism can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Research shows that early intervention leads to positive outcomes.

MAPS and medical treatment for autism

The Medical Academy of Paediatric Special Needs (MAPS) in USA, was established by researcher and autism expert in the field of autism, Dr Dan Rossignol. MAPS provides a comprehensive education and fellowship to medical professionals for the care of children with autism spectrum disorder and related chronic complex conditions.

Doctors, psychiatrists, paediatricians and medical professionals treating patients with autism, no matter their age or where on the spectrum the individual presents, have the opportunity to register and attend MAPS training during the year, to become an accredited practitioner in the field of autism. This training will make them an ‘autism expert’ as they will receive training from top clinicians in the field of autism.

The regular training and conferences provided by MAPS, provides the opportunity for doctors who want to become an autism expert, to prepare themselves effectively to treat patients suffering from autism and neuro developmental disorders. Health conditions such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cerebral palsy and more is covered at MAPS.

Latest developments in medical research and technology, that could help them provide better care and treatment plans to families raising children with autism, is offered to the attendees and ultimately results in the doctors who do take the time to be up- skilled, to broaden their knowledge and experience in autism treatment. An autism expert, is not easy to find. The stats on autism, is showing a steady increase in the number of children globally, who receive a diagnosis of autism, making it imperative for MAPS, to train as many doctors as possible, in the treatments and causes of autism.

At the conference, the role of MAPS, in day-to-day clinical practise, is highlighted and discussed through a series of case presentations. This training and mentorship, goes a long way in providing the right training and preparation to medical professionals.

The increasing scientific evidence- based material, that supports the medical treatment of autism spectrum and related medical conditions, is evolving and passed on to practitioners, in order to have the most impact on this medically complex population and in order to create a doctor who in fact becomes an autism expert.

Dr Doreen Granpeesheh – leading autism expert in ABA and autism education

Dr Doreen, has devoted over 30 years to the study and treatment of autism spectrum. Dr Doreen is a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA) and established the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) in 1990 in the USA. Dr Doreen is an autism expert and her team at CARD have changed the lives of thousands of families for the better. CARD are world leaders in autism treatment. For decades, CARD have been leading service providers, treating children with autism around the world, by providing them with expert ABA services.

The Star Academy

The Star Academy, provides ABA services to families in South Africa, Africa and internationally. The team of ABA tutors from Star Academy have received training from Dr Doreen’s clinicians for over a decade. Star Academy, has become a unique unit, whose services are sought after internationally. The Founding Director of The Star Academy, Ilana Gerschlowitz, is an autism expert and regularly consults with parents whose children have been diagnosed with autism. Ilana shares her experience with autism but also provides them with a roadmap and a way forward.

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Learn from the parents – they know best

A true autism expert, is an individual whose had a lived experience raising a child with autism. Parents who have turned over every stone in search of treatments are the best to ask for advice. Autism came knocking on Ilana’s door twice and this prompted her, to document her journey and the treatments she followed. In the book: Saving my Sons – A Journey with Autism (available from Takealot, loot or amazon), Ilana provides an account of her family’s journey with autism and provides other parents with insight into the diagnosis of autism. When her son David, was diagnosed with autism, they were told – ‘goodbye and good luck’. Take him home, make him comfortable and accept his autism. Having trained in a prestigious law firm, Ilana was well versed in research. She was not going to give up on finding a way to improve her son’s life. Today, parents are able to connect on her international facebook platform: Autism: Now What? Here they can listen to podcasts and interviews from various international experts discussing autism treatments.

A true autism expert has immersed themselves in research. It’s a doctor or clinician who has delved into the gut- brain connection and who truly understands the make-up of autism. An autism expert is an individual who understands the role of the immune system, infections, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, inflammation and metabolic imbalances in autism. Children with autism are not simply ‘neuro-diverse’ nor are they born with autism. Environmental triggers, coupled with vulnerable genetics, cause a cascade of events, that result in autism. Autism is epi-genetic and therefore treatable. Environmental toxins include the food we eat, the water we drink, infections and toxins.

Nutrition in autism

Dieticians and Nutritionists who understand the role of food allergies in autism, can assist parents in helping to alleviate the symptoms of autism. Many children on the autism spectrum restrict their diet. A knowledgeable and experienced dietician can guide parents on the right diet and make recommendations relating to nutrition, which plays a vital role, in autism treatment. Many children on the autism spectrum, suffer from constipation, picky eating, vitamin and mineral deficiency and food allergy. Consulting an autism expert, whose had years of experience in treating these complexities, can help tremendously. Dieticians can also guide parents on the best source and form of nutrition and make recommendations on how to reduce inflammation in the gut, common in autism.

In Conclusion

An autism expert has experience, knowledge and expertise in treating children with autism. A clinician trained in ABA can help children with autism learn to speak, communicate and acquire social skills. Behaviour intervention plans are put in place to address challenging behaviour. A medical doctor or practitioner, who is MAPS accredited, is the best autism expert to consult and to work with, when it comes to mapping out a strategy and a plan to tackle an autism diagnosis.

Who is Ilana Gerschlowitz the autism expert?

• Leading Autism expert
• Mother of three boys – one recovered from autism and her oldest son with autism
• Autism advocate – Ilana is passionate about helping other parents gain access to services and information on autism treatment
• Author of Saving My Sons – A Journey With Autism (Available on Amazon & Takealot)
• Founding Director of the Star Academy –
• Founding Director of Catch Up Kids –
• Achieved Board Certified Autism Technician certification
• Guest speaker at International Conferences on Autism
• 2015 CEO Global award winner for Africa’s most influential woman in Business and Government in Education and Training Private Sector for Region, Country and Continent.
• 2018 Finalist the Europcar Jewish Woman in Leadership Award

Besides being the Founding and Managing Director of the Star Academy, which provides ABA services to children with autism or a related disorder not only in South Africa but also internationally, Ilana  offers a consulting service to empower parents to access the information they need to navigate their way through the maze of autism. She also supports many parents and helps them access the top autism specialists. With her support and guidance parents can begin to take the right action!

Worried about your child’s development?
Figure out what is affecting your child’s development so you can take action now.

The Star Academy