August 8, 2010

USA: Ole Ivar Lovaas, pioneer in treatment for autism, dies at 83

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Alan Zarembo reported on August 8 in THE WASHINGTON POST the death on August 2 of Ole Ivar Lovaas, pioneer in treatment for autism in Lancaster, California, at the age of 83.

He had been recovering from surgery for a broken hip and developed an infection, according to a family member. He learned he had Alzheimer's disease a few years ago.

A psychology professor at the University of California at Los Angeles Ole pioneered one of the standard treatments for autism.

Dr. Lovaas's 1987 paper "Behavioral Treatment and Normal Educational and Intellectual Functioning in Young Autistic Children" showed for the first time that intensive one-to-one therapy early in life could eliminate symptoms of autism in some cases.

He described some of his research subjects as having "recovered," a concept that remains controversial but appealed to parents and helped launch an industry that provides treatment to a growing number of children.

Ole Ivar Lovaas developed an intensive behavioral therapy to treat autism.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Nina Watthen Lovaas

"Before that [paper], people still felt that there was no hope once your child was diagnosed with autism," said Doreen Granpeesheh, one of his former graduate students who founded the Center for Autism and Related Disorders.

As a professor at UCLA, Dr. Lovaas found his first research subjects in the 1960s in state mental institutions.

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