This is Francois. He is my best friend. He is the friendliest child I know. His developmental delay was first noticed at 9 months. His speech and gross motor functions were affected the most. We started physio and occupational therapy shortly after his diagnosis, around his first birthday. With a lot of tears and sweat he persevered and worked very hard, going to multiple sessions a week.
We went to two developmental specialists and on his forth visit he was referred for ADOS-2 testing. He was diagnosed to be on the spectrum in November 2015. We were given several referrals and from all the schools that we corresponded with we decided to go to the Star Academy. Francois went for an assessment in December 2015 and he started in January 2016.
It was rough going at first but he persevered and in no time, he loved it. He worked very hard every day and would fall asleep in the car on the way to his aftercare. Still, he loved going to the Star Academy and would look forward to going to school in the morning.
He started showing improvement early. His vocabulary is expanding constantly and he is stringing more and more words together. Before long he could ask for what he wanted. His grandparents are constantly amazed by his progress every time they see him. He had trouble adapting to strange environments, which got much better. At the beginning of the year he started going to a new aftercare and fit in from the beginning. His independence is growing and he constantly wants to do more and more things by himself. When I pick him up at aftercare he tells me stories. Last week he couldn’t wait to tell me about making hand prints and he does arts and crafts at aftercare.
We are very excited to be applying for him to go to grade 00 next year. He went for an introduction at the school and he enjoyed it tremendously. 18 months ago, he would walk in and want to leave immediately. Now he greeted his peers and the teacher without being prompted and explored the classroom and playground on his own. He makes up his own games and acts out stories with his toys.
The amount of care and attention given by the staff at the Star Academy is beyond measure. We would never have gotten where we are today without their devotion and dedication.
The last 3 years have been such a journey. I feel that I am now finally ready to tell our story to those who dont know & hope that it reaches someone who might be where we were 3 years ago. Our little Benjamin was diagnosed 2 years ago with Autism. We thought our world would come crashing down at the diagnosis & that Benjamin would never be able to live a “normal” life! I immediately started researching how I could best help my son. We went to many doctors who made us feel like we didn’t have any hope of recovery. Benjamin reached all of his milestones. It was only from about 14 months when we noticed something had changed in him. A lot of people told us not to worry, that he would catch up but I always had this feeling, call it a “mother’s instinct” that something wasn’t quiet right. When Benjamin was at school he went to OT and Speech therapy because at the age of 3 years old he was not saying any words. One evening in Oct 2019 after the boys had gone to sleep I was doing my usual research to see what more I could do for Benjamin as almost a year had gone by and I felt that we needed to do more than what we were already doing. So I went to google and typed in Autism (for the millionth time) & something new popped up in the search. The Star Academy!! I clicked on the link & the information I received was so incredible. I immediately sent an email to find out more. The very next day I got a response and a video call meeting was set up with the founder of the Academy. It was the BEST hour of my life! The positive information I was given and the different ways they could help Benjamin was exactly what I had been looking for. Recovery was possible! in November 2019 Benjamin started with therapy sessions at home. We started with 2 hours a day and are now on 4 hours a day. The improvement in Benjamin is incredible. He was potty trained in 3 weeks, his speech has started developing, his understanding & following of instructions is just amazing. I finally feel content & that we are on the right path. Please share my post with friends & family! if anyone is concerned about their child and looking for someone to talk to I am here! PM me anytime. VISIT THE STAR ACADEMY WEBSITE! I promise you you will not be disappointed. The founder also wrote a book called ‘Saving my sons’ I could relate so much to every word she wrote! The message I have for those walking the same path as us is that you are not alone, that the diagnosis is not the end but the beginning because now you know how to help your child. I have learnt to appreciate the little things, because they are so big for Benjamin. 2020 is Benjamin’s year and I am so excited for this new journey of ours. Marius Boonzaier I couldn’t have done any of this without you, you are so supportive and so loving. We are such a great team !!! You are an incredible role model for our boys. I will love you always!
My daughter was diagnosed with ASD one week after her 2nd birthday. She was completely in her own world, non-verbal, stimming, toe walking, and had huge learning barriers. Within 10 days, she started therapy with The Star Academy. The last 17 months have been nothing short of a miracle. Academically she is now more advanced than her peers, her fine & gross motor skills are above average, and she is completing 60 piece puzzles. She has no more stimming and no major behaviour issues. The best part is she has gone from being non verbal to putting 3 and 4 word sentences together. She is more social and engages in her environment. The service we have received from The Star Academy has been exceptional.
Her team are meticulously dedicated to her recovery, and Ilana has been a personal mentor to me, always guiding and helping where she can. I honestly cannot fault The Star Academy in any aspect of my daughter’s therapy, and thank God for bringing them across our path.
– Rachelle Cara Botha
Daniel, our precious golden boy, was diagnosed with ASD at 3 years old and only started talking at almost 6 years old, unable to accept anything contrary to his will, very closed in and frustrated, unable to verbalize his mind, ate a sole total of 7 foods, unable to socialize at all (I can go on)… then we came across Star Academy and within 7 months, are standing amazed at the 100% black and white changes that have happened in his life. He has a team of amazing people who love him and are dedicated to his development, and we cannot say enough how blessed we are at the opportunity to have him here. You guys are the best!!!
– Glynis Kittler
“My name is Paulinah. My son’s name is Thato, he is seven years old. We stay in Tembisa. My son joined yellow canaries two years ago and both of us have learned a lot since then. Before yellow canaries come into our lives, life was difficult as my son couldn’t communicate with anyone and I also didn’t know how to help him. For anything he will scream, fight, kick or bite anyone near him but since he joined the project he can communicate better. No more screaming and fights. He can tell me if he wants something. He can do self help like wash his teeth, put on his clothes and make his sandwich e.t.c. Life has been easier for me too as a parent. Thanks to all the staff for support and for the information we getting as parents about autism”
Thank you to all at Star who are committed to helping Noah build is Ark! Noah is 3 and has been receiving ABA for just 4 months, in that time he has come so far, his self help skills are developing nicely and he has become such a cheeky little chap. I was truly lost before I found you, you have supported our family and become an integral part of Noah’s development. You will only find peace in progress and with Star you get progress……..keep pushing the boundaries on behalf of us all we are truly grateful for you and your unwavering dedication.
– Mary-Jo Kirsten
The Star Academy has been the most fantastic place for our Son Jude! It’s his second home. I truly believe there is NO place like it. Ilana has been my voice of reason and there for me at my lowest and weakest moments and has guided me in the right direction from day one which for this I am so grateful. We have a team of outstanding facilitators who are a part of our family and who my son Jude adores. You are Heroes and we are so grateful for your patience , care and love you give to Jude. He has come so Far and can’t wait to see what more you all have in store for him. When Jude arrived at Star he was eating Pasta cheese and pizza! He was put on a feeding program headed up by Jenna White and a few months later he is eating just about every protein there is! Truly a miracle! We are blessed to be at the Star academy and I know in my heart that we have finally found the right place for him!
– Jacqui Miller
We are sadly leaving JHB for the UK this weekend having been with The Star Academy since 2009. Tom joined when he was 5 and he is now 13 years old. There are not enough words in my vocabulary to describe the appreciation I feel for the support that The Star Academy has offered our family. Ilana and her staff have made an enormously positive impact on Tom’s progress and on the quality of our lives as a family. We would never be where we are today without Star. Ilana has a skill for recruiting the best calibre of individual required for the challenging task of helping these kids. She expects and manages to get the best! I wish she would start a centre in the UK!! And I wish I could take Tom’s team with me. Under the remarkable leadership of Jenna White so much has been achieved. It is a huge wrench to take Tom away from the support he has here. We will miss you all horribly!
– Nicky King
We are so blessed to have found Star Academy! I made a very emotional call to Ilana in total desperation to help my son find the right path to progress and 2 weeks later he started at the Durban centre and in a short period of 5 weeks on the program we have already seen incredible improvement and growth. We have no doubt that Cade’s amazing team are going to help him reach his goals and full potential!!
– Sarah Nurthen
As a parent with a child with Autism I searched for the Best place for my child to be.to improve.to be safe and especially to be loved! The Star Academy in Pretoria is the Best and Perfect place for my child. The team are Amazing. They have shown my son the utmost dedication ,passion and unconditional love. Ameer has improved tremendously since joining The Star Academy in Pretoria. My son has learnt to communicate using his Ipad and is less frustrated. My son can now go out on social outings and is able to not be overwhelmed(which we couldn’t do before).I thank you all at The Star Academy for your continuous hard work. God bless you.
– Ameer’s Mom
Recently heard a judge say to an opposing team, “No! Head up! You either win or you learn.” Star Academy is finally a safe place where this can be made possible for our Andrew. Thank you to a wonderful team!” Katherine Bird
“I can’t speak highly enough of the Academy and in particular Ilana, and all they are doing for our child – who asks for her therapists on the weekend, she has such a good time with them. The Star academy provided much needed direction and structure when we first learned of our daughter’s diagnosis. The therapists are well trained, engaged and really care about the children. We don’t believe our child’s ABA care could be in any better place than it is now with the Star academy.
– Sinead Herbst
I don’t know what we would have done without Star Academy. I can’t thank Ilana and her husband enough for what they have done for my granddaughter. Imagine if you did not answer your phone on that Sunday afternoon, where would she be now. A very big thank you to all who have helped to make this possible and helped my granddaughter make such huge progress. God bless
– Liliana Gilbert
I can’t believe Simons second year at Little Stars is coming to an end. Another year of amazing growth due in no small part to the amazing efforts of his team. For a second year running I have nothing but praise for the devoted loving care they all put into Simon. Each and ever one involved in his programm are outstanding and go to incredible lengths to bring out his potential. He loves them all.
I don’t want to forget all the behind the scenes work that I know nothing about and the people that make it all run so smoothly. For us that means Reinette who so efficiently and patiently does what must be a very challenging job.
Finally we have to thank you Ilana from the bottom of our hearts for creating this wonderful opportunity for Simon. From your own adversity you have helped us and so many others to navigate our journeys. The journey you made alone we have been privileged to make with so much support. God should bless you and your family with only good things.
Jane and George
My son Dylan has referred to my wife and I by name. Something I’ve waited for almost 4 years to hear.
Last weekend, when I pointed to his mum, Dylan said “Mummy”, and then when I pointed to myself he then said “Dad”. It brought a tear to my eye.
Further more, Dylan now asks whenever he wants a snack and specifically mentions which snack he actually wants.
I don’t think this would have happened without the influence of the Star Academy.
Thank you for creating this world for Dylan. You know idea how grateful my wife and I are.
Since Ben started attending The Star Academy 5 months ago we have seen an incredible change. His development accelerated noticeably. He has developed both emotionally and mentally.
The staff are very caring, capable and provide great support. We got daily feedback and are giving ample opportunity to participate. Ben is always very happy to go to school and is in a great mood after his lessons.
We feel very confident that Ben will make great progress in future.
My 2 year old daughter Amber has been in ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) with Star Academy for just over 5 months.
Her progress has been nothing short of a miracle. There has been a massive improvement in her problem solving skills, her language development, her fine and gross motor skills, her compliance, her socialisation, and her imitation skills.
The guidance, support and help that I have received from Star Academy has been a God send. I would be lost without them.
Although Amber still has a long way to go, she is progressing at such a good rate, and thanks to Star Academy, we are hopeful that she will one day recover.
I am eternally grateful to Ilana and the team for all they are doing for Amber.
I joined Star Academy 2 years ago, the nervous, scared mum of a 2.5 year old who had just been diagnosed with ASD. Being a medical doctor myself, I had sought 2nd and 3rd opinions, taken him for ADOS testing at an OT and was now finally on the path to acceptance.
At my 1st encounter with “the team”, I was already impressed. I cannot tell you how many times I had filled out the same sort of forms, with details of stimming, repetitive behaviours, tantrums, speech issues, etc, only to have to explain everything in detail from the beginning. Another BIG plus for the star academy’s team was the unsaid understanding that my boy was experiencing anxiety at being there. They slowly coaxed him out of my arms by pretending to be dinosaurs, (benefits of reading the file!), getting down on their knees, to his level, and connecting with him. In the end, he voluntarily left my lap and didn’t want to go home! I knew then and there, that I had found the right place for him. I had flashbacks of my visit to another ABA centre just weeks prior, where they pulled my screaming son from my arms and said, “It’s normal, it’s expected. Just leave him with us for an hour or two, we will evaluate him and you can pick him up.” I came back to a miserable child and a terrible feeling of unease.
Today, barely 2 years later, I can stick to my guns, and say that I made the best decision to start him at Star Academy. Early intervention works! I firmly believe that the frequent re-assessments and adaptations made by the team every step of the way is what got us where we are today. The way that the instructors engages him and leads him effortlessly to a different task without him realising it, is a thing of beauty! When he seems frustrated, or bored of the same tasks, we mix it up, take breaks, feed the ducks at the crèche etc. Alicia, in her sweet way, can find a way to turn even “packing up”, into a fun, educational experience, and I have often wondered what fun they got into today, when he comes home with drawings done. Today my 4 year old boy is able to speak, express himself, fight with his sister, and fully engage with peers at his level at crèche. What more can one ask for?
As we near the end of our need for therapy, I would like to extend my deepest and sincerest thanks to the instructors. The A-team who have transformed my frustrated, anxious little boy into the cute, mischievous, funny, and tantrum-free little monster that he is today!
PS, I decided to keep this anonymous as I have not told him about his diagnosis. I have weighed up the pros and cons of telling such a young child who is now practically neurotypical about his autism and decided that I don’t want him to use it as a crutch or reason not to achieve greatness. I may tell him if he asks, or as and when the time arises, but for now, he doesn’t know.
A message from a Tembisa mom
We thank you Tembisa ABA team for playing such an important role in our lives. I remember when we first met how frustrated I felt and you told me I could call you anytime I needed to talk about anything concerning my son. That strengthened me knowing that there is someone out there who cares and who can sacrifice their time to listen to me. Thank you so much it means more than you will ever know. I’m so happy with his progress!
May the Good Lord always guide and strengthen you all.
NADINE DA SILVA
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