A respected and revered pioneer in the treatment of autism spectrum disorders has died. Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas passed away in California.
Dr. Lovaas expanded on the use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) which helps people with autism learn to function in day-to-day society. His work began in the 1960s and helped thousands of children with autism across the globe. ABA is evidence-based treatment that proves successful in about half of the patients treated, and can offer the chance for a more productive life.
In Reno, Deborah Schumacher's son, Cliff, was the first child to receive treatment from Dr. Lovaas. In the early 1990's, Schumacher said she knew "something was clearly not developmentally right" with her little boy, "but i didn't know what was wrong." She learned of Dr. Lovaas's methods and classes at UCLA, and moved to southern California with Cliff when he was three years old.
"He got 42 hours a week of one-on-one work in the beginning," she said. "That only took-- in his case-- about a year and a half and he went from being non-verbal to being able to handle first grade."
"You have Dr. Lovaas a cheerful bouyancy and a dead seriousness about what's at stake here, and that's the life of a child," said Patrick Ghezzi, Ph.D., who uses Dr. Lovaas's treatments to help children with autism in Reno.
"He didn't accept what a lot of other doctors and a lot of other researchers say," said Ralph Toddre of the Autism Coalition of Nevada. "[They say] there's nothing that can be done. But he wouldn't accept that.
"He was very, very compassionate for his patients, and incredibly passionate about his work."
Dr. Lovaas was 83 years old when he died from natural causes at a Los Angeles-area hospital, surrounded by his family. His son, Eric, continues his research and treatment. His clinics across the world also continue to help children with autism.