ilanaWelcome back! We look forward to another successful year in partnering with you to overcome the challenges of autism and to make 2016 an extraordinary year! Together with our expert and dedicated ABA team, we are here to support you on your journey, remaining committed to doing everything possible to change the course of autism for you and your family, empowering your children with essential skills in the process.

What sets our Academy apart is our unique ability to deliver expert and quality services to address the specific needs of each child with autism in Africa. We are dedicated to being an Academy of excellence, maintaining our high standards by learning from the best of the best, our affiliate, The Center for Autism and Related Disorders (Card) based in the USA.

Additionally, our close knit ABA Team recently sat for their international  BCAT exam, receiving top marks and achieving the global credentials of being Board Certified Autism Technicians – a testimony to The Star Academy’s dedication to providing cutting edge knowledge and specialized skills so that we can continue to provide expert education programmes to those affected by autism or a related disorder. (**Please see further information on BCAT below).

The ABA Programme

Parents often ask me how long their child will need to be on an ABA programme. There are a few considerations to this answer, including the particular child’s acquisition rate once they commence on an ABA programme. Early intervention is key and intensity of hours makes all the difference. However, it is never too late to enroll your child on an ABA programme especially with our uniquely trained ABA team who work tirelessly everyday to teach children new skills.

In the USA, ABA is the only intervention that is in fact approved and funded. In SA there is currently no funding for ABA and sadly many children are not given the opportunity and cannot access the intervention they so desperately require.  We are working on this and hope that funding will become a reality soon. Just like a diabetic requires insulin children with autism require ABA and we are determined to give this gift to as many children with autism as possible.

New Star Academy 

We are also pleased to share our news with you that we are in the process of opening a new location for ABA services in Johannesburg so that we can accommodate the increasing demand for ABA to children on our current waiting list.

Towards the end of last year our training department trained a group of new ABA instructors and we are pleased to welcome a new large group of energetic and enthusiastic team members to our ABA Team.

Tembisa Outreach Project

We will be continue this year to partner with the Thembisa Hospital to assist children with autism in this poverty stricken area and look forward to another successful year where our team have made ABA possible for underprivileged children.

Our Parents

I meet many parents weekly who have received or are concerned that their child may have an autism diagnosis. I can see the fear and worry on their faces and the terrifying look of why me in their eyes. There is only one thing that can change this nightmare you wish you would awaken from and that is to empower yourself with the information and ability to provide your child with the treatment they so desperately require. I know that parents feel as if they are holding their breath under water and look forward to coming up for air and taking another breathe. The only thing that can make this possible is to see the progress of your child, to hear their first word, to see them responding to their name, to witness them becoming more functional and independent or successfully integrating into a school setting.

This is all possible and we invite you to partner with us to work together to reach these goals. Every child is unique and requires their specific tailor made ABA program to catch up their developmental delays and skills deficits. Our trained and expert team have the ability to work with you, knowing that parent involvement is key to the successful outcome for each child.

In this regard, we provide parent training as part of our ABA programs to empower our parents and to work towards a common goal ie the acquisition of new skills. As we tick the boxes of each new skill acquired each child is one step closer to the goal of fulfilling his or her potential.

I would like to encourage you to have faith and not to lose hope.  Autism is treatable and recovery is possible!

To our ABA Team – thank you for all your dedication, time and hard work for our children.  To our parents and children, we look forward to a wonderful year of hope, happiness and achievement.

With my very best wishes to you all.

** The BCAT certificate is awarded by the Behaviour Intervention Certification Council (BICC) in America as part of their certification programme, demonstrating the degree of excellence of our staff’s education levels, experience and knowledge in treating the challenges and behaviours associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The BICC, an independent and autonomous governing body for the BCAT certification programme, was established in 2013 to promote the highest standards of treatment for individuals with ASD through the development, implementation, coordination, and evaluation of all aspects of the certification and certification renewal processes.

Message from Ilana Gerschlowitz, Director of The Star Academy



We trust that you had a fantastic ending to 2015 and wish you the very best for 2016. As a collective, The Star Academy staff will work tirelessly this year to build on the excellent progress seen across our centers and help make new and significant gains for all of our families, a long lasting reality.

The BCAT qualification has added an element of standardization and recognition that had been missing for a long time and it will ensure that we are providing ABA treatment, in line with the highest possible standards.

We look forward to helping our amazing kids find their voices, overcome their frustrations and develop a wide range of skills that will help them prosper in 2016 and beyond!

Best wishes,


In November 2015, after two years of rigorous coursework and practical supervision, Jenna White sat for the Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA) board exam. In December, she received word that she had passed this notoriously difficult exam, becoming South Africa’s first BCBA. The BCBA is the gold-standard  qualification in Applied Behaviour Analysis worldwide, and we are proud to be offering an international standard of services to our families.

News from the BICC

The Behavioural Intervention Certification Council (BICC) is the organization through which the vast majority of Star Academy staff are certified as Board Certified Autism Technicians (BCATs). Our representative on the board of directors, Jenna White, brings us the following accomplishments from the January board meeting:

  • The BCAT was accredited by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA), making it the first NCCA-accredited, autism-specific credential for Behaviour Technicians who work directly with individuals affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  • Three major health insurance companies in the United States approved the BCAT as a certification for behaviour technicians.
  • Two administrations of the BCAT exam were delivered in the United States and four countries in Africa.
  • Currently, just over 800 individuals are certified as BCATs, 97 of which are African certificants.
  • The BCAT is being incorporated into college curricula.
  • The first computerized exam will be administered in February, 2016.

We are proud to have so many staff members who hold this prestigious certification, and we are excited to see what the BICC and its BCATs achieve this year!


PROMPT (Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets) is a holistic, dynamic, sensory motor, tactile-kinesthetic system designed to help organise, plan and execute the phonetic/phonemic elements of speech production for the development or redevelopment of language within functional interactions. Each phoneme is unique in the sense that each phoneme varies in the amount of pressure, contraction/retraction and timing needed to the jaw, lips, tongue and chest.

There are 3 main uses of PROMPT:

1. To develop an interactive focus/awareness for oral communication,

2. To develop integrated, multi-sensory associative mapping for cognitive or linguistic concepts.

3. To develop, balance or restructure speech sub systems at the sound, word, or phrase level.

Before a PROMPT program can be designed, the Motor Speech Hierarchy assessment is conducted, which looks at all the domains that aid in speech production. Once this is conducted, 3 priorities are determined within the speech motor systems (tone, phonetory, mandibular control, labial-facial, lingual control, sequenced movement and prosody) and a PROMPT program is designed. Each program is different for every client as it looks at the purpose of PROMPT and how it is going to help the client, in the sense that the sound/phrase/phoneme that is produced/ taught is associated to an action or object (e.g. “apple” with the actual object or picture). This makes it functional and meaningful to the client.

Many people can benefit from PROMPT as it uses pressure, touch, kinaesthetic and proprioceptive cues. PROMPT has been effective in teaching clients with hearing impairments, developmentally delayed clients, those who suffer from apraxia, dyspraxia, ASD and even the acquisition of a foreign language. PROMPT is incorporated into the ABA Programs at The Star Academy.

 If you would like to access Prompt services send us an email –

Sensory Stuff


DR BRADSTREET’S PUBLISHED WORK IN FRONTIERS IN HUMAN NEUROSCIENCE – Months after his death his work has been accepted by a prestigous medical publication

Front. Neurosci., 22 December 2015 |
Commentary: Structural and functional features of central nervous system lymphatic vesselsJames J. Bradstreet1,2, Marco Ruggiero3* and Stefania Pacini4
• 1The Brain Treatment Center, Buford, GA, USA
• 2Faculty for Autism Collaboration & Education, Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona, CA, USA
• 3Dream Master Laboratory, Gilbert, AZ, USA
• 4Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine, University of Florence, Firenze, Italy
A commentary on
Structural and functional features of central nervous system lymphatic vesselsby Louveau, A., Smirnov, I., Keyes, T. J., Eccles, J. D., Rouhani, S. J., Peske, J. D., et al. (2015). Nature 523, 337–341. doi: 10.1038/nature14432Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) represent an apparent pandemic threat to child development with the current CDC data documenting ASD affecting over 2% of U.S. males of school age ([CDC] Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network Surveillance Year 2010 Principal, 2014). ASD are likely a heterogeneous group of disorders with genetic and environmental causes resulting in similar phenotypes. Genetic contributions to autism are extremely heterogeneous and may involve synaptic formation and maturation. Thus, multiple genes involved in the formation, specification, and maintenance of synapses have been identified as risk factors for ASD development (Hahn et al., 2013). Also the rate of brain growth in the first 2 years of life may contribute to ASD. Although abnormally enlarged brain volumes and increased rates of brain growth during early childhood are observed only in a minority of ASD children, nevertheless there is evidence of abnormalities in posterior lobes and posterior brain networks during the first 2 years of life in ASD (Lainhart, 2015).If the etiology of ASD is still mysterious, there is a growing consensus for the role of neuroinflammation in ASD pathogenesis (Fatemi et al., 2012), and the recent publication in Nature of the existence of the previously unknown meningeal lymphatic system, invites a closer evaluation of its potential significance to brain development (Louveau et al., 2015).In 1983, Aarli speculated the fluid of the brain traveled along mysterious perivascular channels, and noted that immunological challenges could affect the integrity of the blood brain barrier (Aarli, 1983). It was then accepted that the exit pathway for immune cells trafficking through the CNS was via the arachnoid granulations. The new study in Nature provides us with a secondary pathway leading to deep cervical lymph nodes.

We concur with the comment (Louveau et al., 2015) that; “the presence of a functional and classical lymphatic system in the central nervous system suggests that current dogmas regarding brain tolerance and the immune privilege of the brain should be revisited.”

This feature is critically important with regard to the observations of immunological dysregulation in autism, which intersect with observations of increased extra-axial CSF (EAF) in the autism population. MRI scans were used (Shen et al., 2013) to evaluate the EAF of infants born into families with an existing autistic child. They were able to predict the future onset and severity of autism based on the findings of early and persistent increases in EAF. In a similar way, we were able to demonstrate increased EAF using transcranial ultrasonography and we too observed a correlation between increased severity of autistic symptoms and increased EAF scores (Bradstreet et al., 2014). The mechanisms responsible for such an increased EAF, however, remained unknown. The newly discovered meningeal lymphatic system might help explaining how immunological dysfunctions and peripheral chronic infection/inflammation may affect the meninges and, consequently, brain development.

Several evidences point to a connection between meninges and abnormal CNS development. Meningeal cells are involved in cortical development (Dragunow, 2013), and meningeal alterations in mice modeling ASD-like behaviors contribute to incorrect neurogenesis during development (Mercier et al., 2011). In 2012, Zarbalis et al. demonstrated that meningeal defects alter migration of cortical interneurons in a mouse model, thus further stressing the role of the meninges in the establishment of proper neuronal interconnections (Zarbalis et al., 2012).

The observations of increased EAF in the autism population with these new observations of a central lymphatic system connected to cervical lymph nodes, should direct more attention to the role of meningeal lymphatics in the pathogenesis of ASD. It further begs the question: “could inflammation-associated deficits in meningeal lymph drainage be the culprit for the observed increased EAF?”

Intersecting the increased EAF volume observations in ASD with the EAF drainage to deep cervical lymph nodes draws our attention to the pathogenetic potential of chronic infections leading to inflammation and subsequent deficit in lymphatic drainage.

Supporting the role of chronic infection/inflammation in ASD pathogenesis, multiple polyomaviral infections were observed to be significantly more common in the post-mortem brains of ASD individuals (Lintas et al., 2010) and ASD individuals show immune transcriptome alterations in the temporal cortex that seem to indicate immune dysregulation with consequent inflammation (Garbett et al., 2008). Piras et al. (2014) correlated anti-brain antibodies with specific deficits in ASD, thus reinforcing the notion that chronic inflammation is a common denominator that may lead to EAF increase because of impaired meningeal lymphatic drainage.

The existence of a classical lymphatic system in the CNS might also explain the nature of the lesions in the brains of autistic subjects, which we observed with ultrasonography and designated “cortical dysplasia” (Bradstreet et al., 2014). Inefficient drainage with focal accumulation of CSF in certain areas of the cortex might explain the hypoechogenic appearance of focal “patches,” which we consistently observed in autistic subjects. Accumulation of fluid that typically appears hypoechogenic in ultrasonography, might thus disrupt neuronal/glial networking by increasing the distance between cells and by increasing extracellular pressure on cells with consequent alteration of gene expression trough modification of the cytoskeleton (Knöll, 2010). Since Stoner et al. (2014) also observed “patches” of decreased transcription in autism related brain bank specimens, it is tempting to speculate that such alterations of gene expression may be associated with the accumulation of EAF and its effects on neuronal and glial function.

Finally, transcranial ultrasonography deserves more attention as a harmless and low-cost means of evaluating CSF fluid volumes and stratifying ASD children potentially at-risk for chronic CNS inflammatory disorders. Transcranial ultrasonography enables reproducible evaluation of EAF by measuring the distances between the arachnoid membrane and the cortical pia layer (subarachnoid space), and may thus help establishing the degree of meningeal lymphatic drainage deficit. Since the measures can be easily repeated, the technique could be used for monitoring the progression of the disease or for objectively assessing the efficacy of treatments.

In conclusion, the observation by Louveau et al. (2015) leads us to hypothesize that meningeal lymphatic drainage deficit due to peripheral chronic infection/inflammation may be responsible for increased EAF and cortical dysplasia in ASD individuals and, possibly, for some of the symptoms typical of the disorder.

Conflict of Interest Statement
The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Aarli, J. A. (1983). The immune system and the nervous system. J. Neurol. 229, 137–154.

PubMed Abstract | Google Scholar

Bradstreet, J. J., Pacini, S., and Ruggiero, M. (2014). A new methodology of viewing extra-axial fluid and cortical abnormalities in children with autism via transcranial ultrasonography. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:934. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00934

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

[CDC] Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network Surveillance Year 2010 Principal, Investigators; Centers for Disease, Control, Prevention. (2014). Prevalence of autism spectrum disorder among children aged 8 years – autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network, 11 sites, United States, 2010. MMWR Surveill. Summ. 63, 1–21.

PubMed Abstract

Dragunow, M. (2013). Meningeal and choroid plexus cells – novel drug targets for CNS disorders. Brain Res. 1501, 32–55. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2013.01.013

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Fatemi, S. H., Aldinger, K. A., Ashwood, P., Bauman, M. L., Blaha, C. D., Blatt, G. J., et al. (2012). Consensus paper: pathological role of the cerebellum in autism. Cerebellum 11, 777–807. doi: 10.1007/s12311-012-0355-9

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Garbett, K., Ebert, P. J., Mitchell, A., Lintas, C., Manzi, B., Mirnics, K., et al. (2008). Immune transcriptome alterations in the temporal cortex of subjects with autism. Neurobiol. Dis. 30, 303–311. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2008.01.012

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Hahn, N., Geurten, B., Gurvich, A., Piepenbrock, D., Kästner, A., Zanini, D., et al. (2013). Monogenic heritable autism gene neuroligin impacts Drosophila social behaviour. Behav. Brain Res. 252, 450–457. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2013.06.020

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Knöll, B. (2010). Actin-mediated gene expression in neurons: the MRTF-SRF connection. Biol. Chem. 391, 591–597. doi: 10.1515/BC.2010.061

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Lainhart, J. E. (2015). Brain imaging research in autism spectrum disorders: in search of neuropathology and health across the lifespan. Curr. Opin. Psychiatry 28, 76–82. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000130

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Lintas, C., Altieri, L., Lombardi, F., Sacco, R., and Persico, A. M. (2010). Association of autism with polyomavirus infection in postmortem brains. J. Neurovirol. 16, 141–149. doi: 10.3109/13550281003685839

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Louveau, A., Smirnov, I., Keyes, T. J., Eccles, J. D., Rouhani, S. J., Peske, J. D., et al. (2015). Structural and functional features of central nervous system lymphatic vessels. Nature 523, 337–341. doi: 10.1038/nature14432

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Mercier, F., Cho Kwon, Y., and Kodama, R. (2011). Meningeal/vascular alterations and loss of extracellular matrix in the neurogenic zone of adult BTBR T+ tf/J mice, animal model for autism. Neurosci. Lett. 498, 173–178. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2011.05.014

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Piras, I. S., Haapanen, L., Napolioni, V., Sacco, R., Van de Water, J., and Persico, A. M. (2014). Anti-brain antibodies are associated with more severe cognitive and behavioral profiles in Italian children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Brain Behav. Immun. 38, 91–99. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2013.12.020

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Shen, M. D., Nordahl, C. W., Young, G. S., Wootton-Gorges, S. L., Lee, A., Liston, S. E., et al. (2013). Early brain enlargement and elevated extra-axial fluid in infants who develop autism spectrum disorder. Brain 136(Pt 9), 2825–2835. doi: 10.1093/brain/awt166

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text

Stoner, R., Chow, M. L., Boyle, M. P., Sunkin, S. M., Mouton, P. R., Roy, S., et al. (2014). Patches of disorganization in the neocortex of children with autism. N. Engl. J. Med. 370, 1209–1219. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1307491

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text

Zarbalis, K., Choe, Y., Siegenthaler, J. A., Orosco, L. A., and Pleasure, S. J. (2012). Meningeal defects alter the tangential migration of cortical interneurons in Foxc1hith/hith mice. Neural Dev. 7:2. doi: 10.1186/1749-8104-7-2

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Keywords: autism, meninges, lymphatics, ultrasonography, neurodevelopment

Citation: Bradstreet JJ, Ruggiero M and Pacini S (2015) Commentary: Structural and functional features of central nervous system lymphatic vessels. Front. Neurosci. 9:485. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2015.00485

Received: 03 August 2015; Accepted: 07 December 2015;
Published: 22 December 2015.

Edited by:
Ahmet O. Caglayan, Yale University, USA
Reviewed by:
Karen M. Smith, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, USA
Anthony J. Filiano, University of Virginia, USA
Copyright © 2015 Bradstreet, Ruggiero and Pacini. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


Vegan-Gluten-Free-Oatmeal-WafflesAlmond Flour Waffles


  • 1 cup of almond flour (or other nut flour)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons of honey (or other sweetener)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)

Orange Honey Syrup

  • ½ cup of honey (orange blossom honey would be great!)
  • ¼ cup of fresh orange juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)

Blend all the ingredients together with a fork or whisk.


  1. Warm up your waffle iron.
  2. Place the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, and blend with a whisk.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until well blended.
  4. Add 1/4 cup of the batter, maybe less or more depending on your waffle iron, and close the lid.
  5. When the waffle is ready, take it out, place it on a plate, and then add your favorite topping! These waffles are sweet enough to eat by themselves as well – I’ve grabbed one to eat it on the run a few times.
  6. Seal left-over waffles and store in the refrigerator for a few days, or seal and freeze for a month or so.

Makes about 6 waffles (depending on your waffle iron) – to order your waffle machine.



011 517 2500


011 248 6800



072 544 0415


+27 (0)11 483-1017 / +27 (0)11 646 8495 (swimming pool)


+27 (0)11 712 6600 (City Parks)



+27 83 391 8184



011 794 8706


079 247 2331


Newsletter puzzle image