blue 5It is hard to believe that another year has passed by and that we are already commemorating the 9th World Autism Awareness Day.  WAAD is commemorated annually, bringing together people around the globe on  2 April 2016 each year with the aim of  creating an awareness of the condition, how it affects our children and ways in which children with autism can be treated.

The month of April is a time when we become part of the fold of the world at large who join us in commemorating the condition and the children affected, while acknowledging the tireless supporters who are committed to helping our children lead fulfilled lives.

It is a time when we can pause and see how far we’ve come, how far our children have progressed and how education and information about autism is overcoming the generally accepted misconceptions about the condition.

As we reflect on accomplishments and establish new goals and visions of how we can further contribute to our children’s lives, we also embrace our gratitude, both for the challenges which egg us on to find new and better solutions, while also taking cognisance of the rewards which are a very real part of this experience.

This year’s WAAD is a special time in the The Star Academy’s history of making a difference in the lives of children with autism.  As South Africa’s leading provider of ABA programmes to children with autism, the Academy is proud to be able to extend our services to the underprivileged children from Thembisa who receive ABA as part of our Academy’s Outreach Programme.

ABA is evidence based. Working with children with autism, often means trying to close a developmental gap. It means that your ABA team needs to work passionately and needs to work fast with ABA acting as an effective intervention in order to help children catch up their developmental delays.

The important message of WAAD is that autism is a treatable medical illness and that recovery is possible!

I invite you all to light a candle on 2 April in salute to our children, our families, the global community and the people who have dedicated their lives to uplifting our children, and in doing so are helping to make this message a living reality.

Message from Ilana Gerschlowitz, Director of The Star Academy



The Star Academy was invited in February, to be a part of the ‘PEERS’ training. The training was presented by Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson, who is a renowned researcher and contributor to the field of social skills training at The University of California (UCLA), in adolescents and young adults with challenges in social interaction.

Dr. Laugeson was extremely knowledgeable and showcased an excellent program in  ‘PEERS’ that is an exciting and progressive approach to teaching adolescents and young adults, important social skills, which compliments our ABA programs with fantastic ease. The focus of the ‘PEERS’ program is in brief to teach conversation skills, appropriate relationship building and retention strategies as well as how to deal with social conflict including bullying. The program offers a compact and easily administered approach that focuses on role-play and discussion based interventions with a strong emphasis on parents being the ‘social coaches’

Challenges with social interaction are unfortunately a reality for many children on the Autism spectrum as well as typically developing children. The feeling of not being able to ‘fit in’ or experiencing difficulty fostering meaningful relationships, can adversely affect all spheres of a child’s development, including academic performance and self-esteem. Through our exposure to ‘PEERS’ we now have invaluable knowledge and the ability to assist adolescents and young adolescents and young adults who are struggling socially. We are all social beings by nature and the feeling of competence and confidence that emanates from fruitful social engagements is a feeling we would like for all children and young adults alike. PEERS affords us an excellent opportunity to make this a reality.


What is the best setting for a child with ASD?

There is no clear-cut answer to this question. The needs of your child will determine what the ideal school setting is. It is important to look at how your child learns, how open the school is to inclusion and collaboration, and what environment the school offers. Often, we place our children in mainstream classes with a facilitator, so that they are exposed to typically-developing children, who serve as models of appropriate behaviour, and provide plenty of opportunities for practicing social skills.

When is my child ready for school?

The following skills are prerequisites for your child to be able to benefit from a school environment: ability to communicate needs/desires, being toilet-trained, no or low levels of challenging behaviour, eye contact, joint attention, sustained attention, compliance, ability to follow instructions, and ability to respond to questions. These skills must, at the very least, be emerging.

What if the school/teacher does not know much about ABA and ASD?

This is part of the reason that openness to inclusion and collaboration is so important. Your ABA professionals have the expertise to train, guide, and inform the school and teachers prior to, and during the course of your child’s education.

What if the school won’t allow the ABA team into the classroom?

Speak to the highest in command. Arrange a meeting between the principal and your ABA team, so that any concerns can be voiced and addressed. Alternatively, consider another placement for your child. The reality is, if they have not benefitted from the school environment up to this point, it is unlikely that they will begin to do so without intervention.

What if the school won’t accept my child, or says that they are “not equipped” to handle my child’s needs?

This happens very often. Ideally, you want to find a school that wants to have your child. Try to work with the school setting – explain what the home ABA goals are, use data to show the progress the child has made, see if the school will allow your child to attend part time on a trial basis, and offer to have a 1:1 aide attend school with the child. Explain to the school that you have everything you need from an ASD perspective, and that what you are looking for from them is access to social opportunities and typically-developing models.

How do I know if my child needs a school shadow?

If your child needs individualized attention, modifications, or assistance in order to learn successfully then YES, they likely need a school shadow. It is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect the teacher to provide the same kind of 1:1 attention and modifications as an ABA instructor does. If your child needs that much assistance, then a school shadow is the way to go.

The classroom has a paraprofessional in it, so the school said a 1:1 aide isn’t necessary.

Paraprofessionals may or may not have specific Autism or behaviour management training. You may need to explain to the school that your child needs an ABA-trained person with direct experience with your child’s learning style, who also can intervene on problem behaviours.

Does my child who performs academically at grade level need a 1:1 aide in the classroom?

Possibly. Even a child who copes well academically may need individualized assistance, such as with emotional regulation, or socialization. In some cases, the child doesn’t even know he/she has a school shadow. This is what’s called a “Blind Shadow”. Only the teacher is aware why the shadow is there; the students think the person is just a classroom helper.

We have tried various strategies, we have paid for training, made several accommodations to the classroom, and my child is still struggling. What do we do?

Not every child with autism will be able to learn or thrive in a general education setting. If your child has problem behaviours, sensory processing issues, or there is inadequate training and communication, you may experience the same school problems year after year. At some point, a decision must be made to look at alternative educational options such as home-schooling.


What is Touch Chat?

TouchChat is an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) application that can be downloaded onto an iPad. Similar apps can be downloaded onto tablets such as tap to talk.

TouchChat is a full-featured communication programme for individuals who have challenges communicating verbally. TouchChat is designed for individuals with Autism, Down Syndrome, ALS, apraxia, stroke, or other conditions that affect a person’s ability to use natural speech.

What sets TouchChat apart from other AAC applications?

You can personalise TouchChat: from adding your own pictures or icons to recording your voice as the speech message

Within each button size option (amount of buttons on screen), there are options for more basic boards or more sophisticated ones

You can easily hide and edit buttons

There is a lot of online support

How has Touch Chat benefited children at Star Academy?

This programme has benefited non-verbal children by giving them a way to communicate effectively and easily. Although we never give up on assisting children to communicate vocally, Touch Chat gives them an appropriate means of communication.

It has promoted language development in various ways for verbal and non-verbal children

It has aided non-verbal children in their acquisition of verbal language up to a point where they are able to make expressive approximations as well as acquiring expressive language to a point where the AAC device have been faded out.



PROMPT is an acronym for Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets. It is used to help individuals with varying speech disorders to produce sounds, words and/or phrases that can be shaped into functional language or to refine the current standard of speech.

In order to produce certain sounds, words or phrases, various levels of the motor system must be controlled. PROMPT helps facilitate the planning, coordination and time execution of the movement patterns of speech. This is achieved by applying prompts externally on and around the facial area in order to manipulate the oral-motor structures we use for speech. These oral-motor structures include the lips (labial facial), tongue (mylohyoid muscle), jaw (mandible) as well as the structures that are associated with voicing (the lungs and the larynx). These prompts enable the child to feel the different movements of each oral-motor structure needed to produce different sounds. This placement will cue the child in on movement of the lips, tongue and jaw is necessary to produce a sound, the extend of the movement necessary as well as in which direction the lips/tongue/jaw should move. It also provides the child with cues on how to transition from one movement to the next in order to string sound together to produce words.  In addition to this, the instructor also gives verbal information informing the child of the same information given by manipulating the oral motor structures.

PROMPT help children gain voluntary control of motor-speech systems and links the necessary motor movements to linguistic (word, phrase) equivalents for use in functional communication. This means that, in addition to teaching our children how to produce a specific sound or word, we also teach them that this sound or word has meaning and can be used to communicate.

The prompts used are only cues and programming aspects of motor control. The ultimate goal involves carry-over, or generalization which must be realized and carried out by the child in his/her natural environment. PROMPT is an individualized program. In order to design  a PROMPT program, an assessment is conducted to determine the areas that needs to be addressed.  A program is then drawn up accordingly and incorporated into the child’s ABA program. For more information on prompt email:


Skills logo

Does your child have trouble making friends? Are they unable to speak? Are they trapped in their own world, with you left on the outside? When your child is on the autism spectrum, it can feel like you are lost with no clear way to unlock your child’s potential and realize your dreams for their success in life.

Skills® for Autism is an easy-to-use online tool which has helped thousands of families around the world to find the clear path in the Autism journey leading to a fully realized life for people on the spectrum. This journey to success begins when you complete the Skills® Assessment questions. The Skills® Assessment will give you and everyone in your child’s life the keys to understanding your child’s strengths, needs and developmental goals.

Skills® helps educators build an individualized educational plan for skill acquisition and positive intervention plans, leading to meaningful progress for students. Curriculum is based on applied behavior analysis (ABA), which is regarded as the most effective treatment for individuals with autism spectrum disorder.

Researchers with extensive backgrounds in applied behavior analysis created Skills® for Autism by integrating more than 30 years of scientific study with the latest online technology. There have been 10 published studies on the effectiveness, efficiency and validity of the Skills® for Autism tool and its content.  Launched in 2011, Skills® is used by schools worldwide, as well as ABA therapy providers and parents.

Complete the Skills® Assessment  in order to gain access to the ultimate tools in building the life your child deserves!

Take a hands-on role in your child’s educational development by completing the Skills® Assessment and using Skills® to view your child’s progress! Skills® is an online tool that empowers teachers to create and implement comprehensive, individualized teaching plans for students to improve learning outcomes and provide measurable growth toward a fully-functioning life.

Skills® is a comprehensive, online solution for creating and implementing comprehensive, customizable treatment plans for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder.  Skills® is based upon principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), the only treatment shown to produce significant, long-term improvement. The research and evidence-based system allows users to assess skills strengths and needs across all areas of human development, select from a pool of research and evidence-based lesson activities with teaching instructions, track progress, manage behaviors, collect data and generate reports.  Used by professionals, parents and schools, Skills® users realize better outcomes, improved behavior and increased efficiency.   For more information email





ARI Publication 40 / April 2007


Rationale:  Human digestive systems have not evolved on a diet containing high amounts of wheat and dairy products. Humans are the only animal who drink milk as an adult, and the only animal to drink the milk of another animal. Cows milk is perfect food for baby cows, but not for humans, especially past age of nursing.

Over the last several hundred years, wheat has been bred to greatly increase its gluten content, and a typical US diet contains far higher amounts of wheat than humans were eating 1000 – 10 000 years ago. Gluten(in wheat,rye,barley, and possibly oats) and casein (in all dairy products, including milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, caseinate) can cause two problems:

1. They are common food allergens, especially in children and adults with autism.

2. Certain peptides from gluten and casein can bind to opioid – receptors in the brain, and can have a potent effect on behavior (like heroin or morphine), causing problems including sleepiness, giddiness, inattention/ “zoning out”, and aggressive and self abusive behavior. Like opioids, they can be highly addictive, and a lack of them can cause severe behaviors.

These problems appear to be due to:

1. A failure of the digestive tract to fully digest the gluten and casein peptides into single amino acids

2. Inflammation of the gut, allowing the gluten and casein peptides to enter the bloodstream and reach opioid receptors in the brain.


  • Total, 100% avoidance of all gluten products and all dairy products. Even small amounts, like a bite of a cookie, can cause allergic and/or opioid problems. Many foods have trace contamination with gluten, such as dusting french fries and raisins with wheat powder to keep them from sticking, so it can be very difficult to avoid all foods and contaminated foods.
  • Digestive enzymes can also be helpful, especially if there is an accidental exposure, but they are probably not as helpful as a total avoidance of casein and gluten.
  • Many children with autism also benefit by removing corn and/or soy products.


Children who most crave dairy and/or wheat, and who eat a lot of it, are most likely to benefit. Casein-free diets usually produce benefits within a month, and sometimes within a week. Gluten free diets usually take  1 – 3  months to produce benefits. In some children there is a worsening of symptoms for few days.(similar to a drug withdrawal) followed by improvement.


soup6 Carrots, chopped

1/2 cauliflower, chopped

1/2 acorn squash, peeled and chopped

2 stalks celery, diced

2 cups tomato juice

2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon dill

1 teaspoon oregano

2 green onions, chopped

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

2 stalks broccoli, chopped

2 medium zucchini squash, chopped

Put all ingredients except broccoli, zucchini, into a large pot. Add enough water to completely cover vegetables. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cook with lid ajar. Add the broccoli after the soup has been simmering 10 minutes. After another 10 minutes, add the zucchini. Now that all the vegetables have been added, simmer another 15 -20 minutes, until zucchini is just tender.

Serve and enjoy.