Thursday, August 12, 2010
When on August 2nd, Dr. Ivar Lovaas passed away, the field of autism treatment and behavior analysis suffered a significant loss.
Dr. Lovaas began his career when the psychoanalytic theory of autism was presumed valid, despite a grievous lack of supporting research. Flouting that unsubstantiated conventional wisdom, Dr. Lovaas changed the course of autism treatment by initiating a long-term program of targeted research. That research led to his seminal 1987 study, demonstrating that some children with autism can make significant progress with early intensive behavioral intervention. This indispensable work paved the way for additional empirical demonstrations and single-case subject designed studies, all supporting the central premise that, with behavioral intervention, children with autism can overcome many of the debilitating effects of the disorder and learn skills previously considered unattainable.
Dr. Lovaas' practical manual, The Me Book, was one of the first volumes to put validated interventions directly into the hands of parents and practitioners. The Me Book charted a new course of treatment, and offered parents and teachers a road map of what — and how — to teach.
It is an understatement to say that Ivar Lovaas was a pioneer. And while his work may have generated controversy and criticism, few great thinkers have followed such a visionary path without suffering detractors along the way. Today, thousands of children and families — whether or not they realize it — enjoy the benefits of the programs and strategies that Dr. Lovaas advocated. His work will continue, and his legacy will not be forgotten.
Bridget A. Taylor, Psy.D., BCBA-D
Board Member, Association for Science in Autism Treatment
David Celiberti, Ph.D., BCBA-D
President, Association for Science in Autism Treatment