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Don’t give up hope if your child suffers from autism, says mom

Author IIana Gerschlowitz said her journey started 18 years ago when her son was diagnosed with autism. Picture: Supplied

Author IIana Gerschlowitz said her journey started 18 years ago when her son was diagnosed with autism. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 19, 2022

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Pretoria - Even though not every child may recover from autism, no parent should give up their hopes and dreams for their child to be functional and independent members of society.

Being a mother of two boys with autism, IIana Gerschlowitz, author, founder, and CEO of The Star Academy, said her journey with the disorder started 18 years ago when her son was diagnosed with autism just before he turned two years of age.

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Speaking of awareness, as April is Autism Awareness Month, Gerschlowitz said prior to the harsh diagnosis, she and her husband were living pretty normal lives, up until they started noticing a regression in her son's development.

She said this was after her older son, who was on the higher scale of the autism spectrum, started showing signs of losing eye contact, stopped playing peek-a-boo, became unreachable, and wasn’t responding to his name.

"After we started going to the doctors, the one thing they said to us following his diagnosis was simply ’good luck and goodbye’, without any further word.

"People don't get the true picture of what autism is. They think of the sensationalised version of the 1988 movie Rain Man, but what parents have to deal with is something completely different."

She said she was equally devastated when, at 17 months of age, her second son was diagnosed with a similar condition.

"Everyone sees the red flags for this disease but they don't want to run to immediately say a child has autism. In some communities, it is regarded as witchcraft."

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Gerschlowitz said autism was still very misunderstood, and she wanted to educate professionals and parents on the recent developments on the condition and the evidence-based treatment available to them.

She highlighted that through her research and foundation, she had been able to assist her children, so much so that her youngest had just passed Grade 4 and was no longer regarded as autistic.

The same could unfortunately not be said of her older son, whom she said had more severe symptoms.

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"Autism doesn’t need to be a lifelong disability. The younger the child gets medical treatment and education, the better. Early intervention is key when treating this and it's never too late to start the right treatment."

Through her book Saving my sons; a journey with Autism, Gerschlowitz said she sought to encourage parents not to give up hope on their children.

It also looks at food allergies, nutrient deficiencies, as there was a gut-brain connection in terms of the metabolic imbalance and auto-immune system.

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"These children have tummy and diet issues, so if you want to fix it you have to start with the gut."

She said her youngest benefited from the intensive education programme, called Applied Behaviour Analysis, for four years at seven hours per day in order to condition him.

"I wrote this book as I have a story to tell – of the heartbreak of my older son and what parents go through, as I don't think people and professionals in South Africa have caught on with the developments.

"Most importantly, as the country commemorates autism month, I want to give parents hope that it is possible to rehabilitate their children. That it does not have to be a lifelong disability with no progress,“ Gerschlowitz added.

Pretoria News

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