Autism can be a treatable medical illness. Until reading the story of Ilana Gerschlowitz and her sons – Saving my sons, a journey with autism – I did not comprehend the revelations in that one statement. I could never have imagined that one family could endure such a journey, and ultimately provide answers and hope to other families in South Africa and around the world.
Saving my sons
“If you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met one individual with autism.”
In Saving my sons, you meet Ilana, mom to three sons and founding director of The Star Academy. Together with her husband, Martin, they have fought the battle with autism not once, but twice. Read their journey which they lay bare upon the pages, in agonising honesty with all the highs, lows, regrets and wins they have faced over the past 15 years.
This journey was not taken alone and in the book you will hear accounts from Ilana, Martin and their son Eli, as well as from various medical experts and instructors who joined the fight against autism for sons David and Aaron. Journalist and co-author Marion Scher compiled their accounts and gives the reader a more complete picture.
Saving my sons is their story, and Ilana would be the first to agree that every family will have different experiences and each child requires personalised treatments. Your views may differ, autism is a topic that runs hot and will continue to be as people seek answers and a cure. Take away what you need from this book and hopefully Ilana’s spirit and courage to keep challenging the preconceived ideas of autism held by the medical world and society.
“No day will end, no sun will set, without us searching for David’s cure. I know it’s out there.”
The rise in autism
In the book, the rise in autism is discussed by experts as to whether there is a higher prevalence in recent years, as opposed to better diagnosis and awareness of the condition. The following paragraph uses an analogy of canaries in coal mines, and by reading David’s and Aaron’s stories, you will come to know about their triggers.
“Children with autism have been labelled our planet’s ‘canaries in the coal mine’. Just as canaries taken into coal mines by miners in previous years warned them of the presence of dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide and methane (they were more sensitive to the gases than the miners can got ill first), children with autism are sounding a warning for the rest of us. Their very important message is that our world is simply too toxic for healthy living, and that this toxicity is increasing both local and global prevalence of the condition.”
The Star Academy
Ilana has learnt that the sooner a child seeks treatment, the better their chances are of a full recovery. That is why she founded The Star Academy in South Africa which provides Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) instruction to children with autism. She later went on to establish Catch Up Kids, which helps children overcome learning difficulties.
“Many children do completely lose their diagnosis of autism… The younger the child and the more hours of ABA they receive early on, the better their chance of recovery… We have to bring out their capabilities by never expecting them to do less than any other child can do.”
There is no room for hesitation, and if you are in any doubt whether your child falls within the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, read through the criteria at the end of the book. Every day is crucial and no time should be lost in starting treatment. Ilana would continuously adapt her son’s treatment protocols, even on a daily basis, so as not to lose a single hour to autism. This dedication is expected from all her staff at The Star Academy, and her children’s treatment team.
Reaching the final destination
In the book you will follow as Ilana tried various treatments, discarding the ones that failed and travelling to America to find more answers. Advances in technology, such as iPads have made learning and communication tools more affordable and accessible to parents and children. Whatsapp groups and Skype have opened up means of communication between and amongst specialists and parents across the globe.
Still many parents in South Africa face financial hardships and isolation, and don’t have access to the care their autistic child so desperately need. You will learn more about The Star Academy’s outreach project, The Yellow Canaries in Tembisa, and be humbled by a parent’s love in the face of overwhelming odds.
There is still a way to go in finding a cure for every child. In the meantime, let’s celebrate every victory, no matter how small. Celebrate the joy of a child being able to blow out their birthday candles for the first time or saying ‘I love you mom’.
“Treating autism is not a sprint – it’s a marathon. It requires trial, error and endurance.”
A book everyone should read
Why should everyone be reading this book and learning about a family’s journey with autism? More and more children are fighting the battle with autism and it’s up to society to join the fight alongside them. For me, reading this book has given me more insight into the condition, how I can better support parents and children fighting autism, and be open to inclusive education. What will you take away from this book?
Saving my sons, a journey with autism is relevant to:
- Parents and caregivers fighting autism or who suspect their child is on the spectrum
- Family and friends of children with autism
- Teachers, educators and learning institutions
- Doctors, medical specialists, occupational therapists, speech therapists
- Any person who wants a better understanding of autism
The book is available at leading retailers and online stores. Please visit The Star Academy website for a full list of stockists and links to purchase your copy. Proceeds will go to helping under privileged children access ABA and medical treatments.
This is not a sponsored post. Book supplied for review purposes. Images my own.