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Meet a medical professional -- Britzeitha Britton

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Meet A Medical Professional:  Britzeitha Britton

Autism Specialist (Master's Degree), Phonoaudiologist (B.S)

by Jo Johnson

 

Most people who will read this article do not suffer from Autism or have a family who does, but this disturbing condition has touched many of our lives.  Most of us know some family struggling with the difficult situation of a child with Autism.  Simply getting the child diagnosed correctly often takes years, and once diagnosed, finding the best path for each child can be extremely frustrating.   In most of the Western World, the condition is hard to treat, so one can hardly imagine the increased difficulty in a developing country like Panama with limited resources and personnel.

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I was fortunate to be introduced to the ONLY Phonoaudiologist in Panama using the program of M.I.A, which is an integrated method of learning.  Britzy acquired a post-graduate degree here in Panama, specializing in Autism.  Additionally, she has completed an associated post-graduate program in childhood development.   She recently started her own foundation (CELAP), which required tremendous paperwork and government approval, and it is the ONLY Autism foundation in Panama that specializes in Autism and Childhood development.  Her book is both autobiographical and a manual for parents and educators who deal with all types of children, not just the those suffering from autism.  It's an inspirational story as well as a resource for any parent or teacher.   

She believes every person has the right to reach their full potential, and gives her insights into behavior modification and child-rearing in general.  The book, titled El Diaro’ de Toda Mama’ will be introduced in Panama City on April 28, 2019, at a Health and Autism Expo.  Check her website www.fundacioncelap.org  for locations if you are interested in attending. You can also purchase a signed copy, and meet Britzeitha in person.  I plan to encourage her to have a book-signing event locally in the Chiriqui area, hopefully at our local library.

 

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Britzeitha is a beautiful woman with a brilliant smile.  I've never seen her not smiling.  She also has a keen sense of humor.   She has a lovely family, which is a significant understatement.  She has three daughters, Keity, Christy, and Alexandra.  Keity (Drennan) was Miss Panama 2016; she now works as a professional model in Milan, Italy and New York City.  (Google her name.  She certainly makes all Panamanians proud.)  But, when meeting Britzeitha you quickly see where her daughters get their beauty.  Britzeitha married Douglas Martinez six years ago and he has been running the business side of their non-profit foundation since its establishment two and a half years ago.   The term "power couple" applies to these two friendly, energetic and highly-successful individuals.

 

Within this article are links to her foundation (currently avaliable in Spanish only), however, I interviewed Britzeitha on a more personal level to find out how she works with each patient, her professional and practical approach.  She is the only person in Panama treating Autism with a combination approach, which she terms a "fusion program".   She uses the multiple intelligence program based on Howard Gardner's theory, combined with Eric Fromm's Cognitive Conductual Theory, and lastly a method developed by Eric Chopler known as T.E.A.C.H. which was developed specifically for Autism.   In addition, she includes an intriguing nutritional component which, when strictly adhered to, is one of the most effective in changing behaviors and improving the lives of her patients and their families. It makes a difference. A big one.

While Ms. Britton typically works with children and teenagers, she has also worked with patients in their 50’s.  One of the unique problems in Panama is the lack of understanding of Autism by teachers, parents and even pediatricians.  Children often go undiagnosed for years.  We have all seen "The Miracle Worker" and what happened to Helen Keller when left in the care of people whose intentions are good, but ended up sacrificing "quality of care" for expedience.  Often by the time Britzeitha's expertise is sought out, she is walking into a crisis situation.   I asked her to describe an average approach to a typical new patient. 

On the first day, she says her only job is to observe the child and the parents, in the home environment. She usually sits at a distant table, diagonally and behind, to get the best information without adding new stress. She is noting the particular things that cause huge emotional outbursts and the typical wild mood swings.  She told me that something as innocent as someone in the home wearing perfume can set off a person with Autism.   Sometimes it may be a bright or flickering light, or a peculiar movement.  Some patients cannot handle being touched, a pointed finger, or a sudden loud noise.  The triggers are nearly countless, and unique to each patient.   Britzeitha creates a file listing all the characteristics of the home environment and begins the profile of the patient.  She has a number of employees who work with her, so it is important that all staff members know exactly how to interact with each patient prior to each training session.   For most students, their first tasks involve no interactions with anyone else.  They are given a puzzle, or an IPad with special programs designed specifically for autism.   Each child is different and responds differently.  She respects where they are and works within the parameters of what each child can tolerate to bring about the necessary changes so they will to be able to ultimately function in society.  

She and her husband, Douglas, have developed a special diet for the autistic patient.   It is a very basic menu.  Spices and strong flavors such as “too sweet", or “too sour", etc., usually need to be eliminated. Bland is the key to avoiding a stimulus that might provoke an unexpected reaction.  She promotes a natural diet of unprocessed fruits, grains and vegetables. She prefers they eat no meat, but allows for some in moderation if the child's family insists.  However, she strongly discourages eating fish as she feels there could be a connection between the high heavy metals that sometimes exist in seafood and what is going on in her patient's Autistic brains.   We have all seen children who've had too much sugar or caffeine.  When these are removed from the diet, in most cases children quickly become more able to listen to instructions and become more socially appropriate.   This is even more important for Autistic children, as they are hypersensitive to substances in their diets.  Britzeitha has studied food textures suited to each child.  Some cannot tolerate hot or cold, gritty, pasty, etc. It can differ vastly in each patient.  Anything in the diet that can be altered to suit the child's particular needs is changed to reach the best social and cognitive outcome. Their foundation is working on a special liquid supplement formula. It is still in the developmental stage, but they've already seen some very promising results.  Douglas, Britzeitha's husband, says one of the most challenging things he's working on is to make it more palatable for children. It has to taste good or it will obviously go to waste.

 

If you are interested in learning more about her foundation and her work, please check out the websites below.  If you are interested in volunteering or donating, that is also a good place to start.  Their foundation is not currently qualified as an income tax charitable contribution deduction for Panamanian income tax purposes, as they lack the required physical building from which to work,  separate from their residence.  They hope to have that soon, but for now CELAP is being run from their home in Los Molinos.   If anyone has any specific questions, or specifically a family that you'd like to refer to Britzeitha, please feel free to contact her directly or to us at  health.info@chiriqui.life

 

Please note these important links/information for the Autism foundation:

Name of foundation:  Centro de Estimulacion de Lenguaje y Autism de Panama (CELAP)

www.fundacioncelap.org 

To donate badly needed funds to the foundation, please use: 

Banco General, account 03-44-01-115702-0

To Contact Britzeitha Britton directly by phone or Whatsapp:  +507 6949-6084

People do make a big positive difference locally in Panama. You can be part of that.

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