Rosalie obtained the degree B.A.(Log) at Pretoria University, qualifying as a Speech and Language Therapist and Audiologist.
EARLY EXPERIENCE IN AUTISM
She accepted a post in the first school for children with autism in South Africa. “ I was alone, at sea ,” she reminisces. “ At the time, the belief was that the children withheld their speech and their bowel movements for the same reason – that they were unwilling to give of themselves to this cold, hostile world. I had no colleague to talk to about how I was meant to do about this.” Nowadays this view seems unthinkable – even “Neanderthal” (according to Dr Bernard Rimland). We knew so little. But those were the days of when the incidence was only 5 in 10,000 children.
After 10 years she returned to the now-renamed Vera School for Autism in Cape Town. So much had changed in the meantime. Bettelheim’s theory was on its way out, and the DSM-III included Sensory and Movement differences as fundamental to the nature of Autism. Professionals were coming to realise these issues had a profound impact on learning and development, and new therapies were being developed to target these problems.
THE SOUND OF A MIRACLE
In 1992 The Readers Digest published “Fighting For Georgie” in its condensed books. “ It was given to me by a parent to read, ” Rosalie says. “At first I was hurt. I felt they were accusing me of not trying hard enough for their little girl.” But after reading the story she found the unabridged book, “ The Sound of a Miracle”, by Annabel Stehli. This is the story of her daughter Georgiana who was diagnosed with Autism from birth by reputable autism specialists in New York. It describes Georgie’s difficulties that included extreme sensitivity to certain sounds and situations, and how they came upon the therapy named Auditory Integration Training. This simple intervention was the turning point for Georgie’s emergence from autism and today she is a successful business woman and mother.
Intrigued by this account Rosalie took a bank loan to attend an Autism conference in Toronto to hear Dr Gerard Binet speak on Auditory Integration Training. “ The conference was a mind-blower”, she recalls. “ I was stunned to find how out-of-sync we were in South Africa. Mostly I was outraged to find that we had been kept in the dark by the very people we had looked up to. I realised that unlimited access to information about new developments was key to achieving the best. I decided never again to take any professional’s opinion at face value, but to research to my own satisfaction. I believe our children deserved the best, and I was going to do what I could to bring it to them.”
MEET THE STEHLI’S
On the way home from that conference, she called in on the Stehli’s in Westport Connecticut. They ran the Georgiana Organisation, to bring information about Auditory Integration Training to the USA, and to arrange training courses for practitioners of AIT. “They graciously found an hour in their busy schedule, and that hour became a day which ended with a firm friendship being forged.
“What really convinced me that AIT was no made-up story was being in that office as they packed books and answered calls from parents talking about AIT and the changes they were seeing in their children. As I read the testimonials randomly stuck up on the walls, I knew this was no longer anecdotal, nor was it one person’s miracle, but it was essential for everyone to have access to AIT.
“And I wanted to be part of it.”
AIT COMES TO SOUTH AFRICA
With a further bank loan and encouragement from her husband, she returned to Westport, CT, and was trained by Dr Guy Berard as an AIT practitioner. While doing AIT, she also made copies of the research and information and sent these to the heads of Speech and Language Therapy departments of all the universities in SA. She also arranged funding for a lecture tour by Georgiana Stehli to the major cities.
Parents flocked to hear Georgie and meet a recovered autistic person. Professionals largely formed up in opposition and indifference.
Rosalie realised the high cost of training and of the Audiokinetron was keeping interested professionals from becoming involved, so she began to approach design engineers about developing a local device. After a few false starts she approached an engineer who was a member of her church, Tim Hagen, With the approval and guidance of Dr Berard Rosalie guided Tim in the creation of the Earducator, a device that provided AIT sound modulation. After she had it tested at the University of Pretoria’s Sound Laboratory, she took it to Annecy where Dr Berard gave it his enthusiastic approval. The Earducator quickly became the official AIT device internationally.
FILTERED SOUND TRAINING
Internal politics and jostling found Rosalie pushed out of her own project by Hagen and Brockett. She determined to start over, and soon was investigating the creation of a computer-based system for AIT.
She approached a bespoke software business, Dataworks in Waterford, Ireland, to write the programme. The final product was named Filtered Sound Training to differentiate it from the Earducator, and could be run from any Windows computer. The system was compact, light, and for the first time allowed that AIT could be done in the client’s home while maintaining the highest quality of AIT sound delivery. After verifying this in the same University of Pretoria laboratory, FST was launched. AIT was now more affordable, more portable, and more accessible.
Since that date, many practitioners have trained in FST around the world and many people have had the benefits from these auditory sessions.
As time passed further technological advances have made the laptop less viable as the Tablet has become the item of preference. With the collaboration of a gifted IT designer, Gabor Toth of Hungary, a hi-fidelity system on a dedicated tablet is launching in September 2017.
Rosalie continues to maintain the protocol for AIT as taught her by Dr Guy Berard, resisting the unnecessary changes others attempt to introduce, insisting that unless a filter or adjustment has some researched value, it has no place in AIT.