School of Autism:
Autism Spectrum Disorder has been defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) as a childhood disorder classified by impairments in social cognition and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior. This diagnosis may also be accompanied by atypical sensitivity to sensory aspects of one’s environment. As such, the question remains: “Can my child learn?” and if so, “where?”
The Star Academy founded by Ilana Gerschlowitz, has established itself as a school of Autism, based in South Africa and extending its services to Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Rwanda and Ghana. It is one of the few schools of Autism available to residents as well as international visitors, the Star Academy focuses on Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy as a method of intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder, known to many clinicians as ASD.
The Star Academy prides itself of being a school that enables learning for children who have been diagnosed with ASD and related disorders. It does this through various processes that allow supervisors to assess and developed tailor-made therapy programs for clients. Starting by having what Star calls an ‘Intake Workshop’, whereby a therapy team is assembled and who’s goal is to determine the unique strengths and difficulties of each child as an individual, and therefore develop a program specific to each child.
Affiliated to CARD (Center for Autism and Related Disorders) the Star Academy focuses on CARD’s 8 content areas which make up the syllabus, each domain consists of learning progressions that correlates with a child’s emerging age, complexity of skill, verbal ability or restrictions, number of prerequisite skills and level according to function, which is interdependent on diagnosis. Skills development follows a hierarchy that allows for errorless learning and gives the child an opportunity to attain and retain learnt targets through a specific teaching structure which includes, matching, receptive responses and expressive responses.
Founder of Applied Behavioral Analysis, Ivar Lovaas, describes this teaching procedure as discrete trail training, where correct and appropriate responses are highly reinforced and inappropriate behaviors or inappropriate responses not reinforced. As a school of Autism, Star Academy focuses on decreasing negative and anti-social behaviors by a development of a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP), this is done by identifying atypical behaviors and effectively teaching a child appropriate replacement behavior in order to better facilitate learning, thus increasing a child’s skill repertoire across all 8 domains of learning.
“What about mainstream schooling?” Depending on the complexity of skill and level of function a child is diagnosed with, the Star Academy shows great collaboration in facilitating mainstream school integration. Combined with ABA therapy Star Academy as a school of Autism believes that integration gives a child a module for development and to aid successful integration develops home and center-based programs to support mainstream school placement.