Los Angeles, CA, August 6, 2010 – O. Ivar Lovaas, a distinguished professor of psychology at UCLA, a pioneer in the research and development of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to treat children with autism, and the founder of the Lovaas Institute, died on August 2nd at age 83.

The publication of Dr. Lovaas's landmark study in 1987 demonstrated that nearly half of children with autism who received early, intensive behavioral therapy achieved normal-range IQ scores and were able to attend regular education classrooms by the end of first grade without the help of an aide. Many of those children in the study who did not achieve optimal results still demonstrated marked improvement. This study paved the way to the development of practical, effective therapy based on the collection of objective, measurable data, in contrast to earlier treatment which had been based on theories unsupported by scientific research. Since that time, his work has been validated by independent treatment sites which achieved comparable outcomes when they were trained in his methods.

In the late 1950's, as he was completing his post- doctoral work at the Child Development Institute (CDI) at University of Washington with fellow students Sid Bijou and Don Baer, Dr. Lovaas made the observation that,

“All the children appeared happy and normal except for a little girl who did not make eye contact, did not talk or play with toys, spending the day rocking her body and flapping her hands and behaved as if others were not present. I feared that she would not get better with the psychological treatments provided at that time, but instead would end up in a state hospital where she would remain until she died. She had many of the behaviors, which would indicate autism, but the diagnosis was not reliable that far back.”

This began his search for effective treatments for autism, which could best be determined by rigorous research. The treatment he developed focused on observed behaviors rather than underlying neurosis and emphasized environmental consequences, and especially the use of reinforcement, to teach new, more appropriate behaviors. In 1961, Dr. Lovaas joined the UCLA psychology department and used his early research and success at the CDI to formulate a comprehensive therapeutic and educational approach to treatment which grew into the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis.

Dr. Lovaas devoted his career of nearly fifty years to improving the lives of children with autism. He founded the Lovaas Institute in 1995 to serve the rapidly expanding demand for treatment which arose from his research clinic at UCLA. Dr. Lovaas was a director, president, and the clinical director of the Institute, which continues to provide treatment to children with autism and consultation to school districts attempting to cope with the increasing need for effective special education for children on the autism spectrum. In recent years, Dr. Lovaas assumed an advisory role at the Institute, which now provides services across the country, with offices on both coasts and the Midwest and with affiliates in several countries abroad. Dr. Lovaas’ research and methods will be continued by the Institute through its current board members, including his wife, Nina Lovaas, University of Rochester associate professor, Dr. Tristram Smith, who earned his Ph.D. from UCLA under Dr. Lovaas, and Scott and Linda Wright, who were students of Dr. Lovaas at UCLA. The Lovaas Institute is committed to providing the highest quality treatment available to children diagnosed with autism or related disorders.

When interviewed several years ago about how he would like to be remembered, Dr. Lovaas said,

“I would like to be remembered in the tradition of other empiricists and educators who put a good deal of faith in the power of the environment to shape human behavior. I’d like to be remembered as one who worked to free those whose minds enslaved them…and as a person who challenged the notion that variables that we used to consider to be stable and unchanging, like IQ and autism, aren’t really as unchanging as many had thought them to be.”

Dr. Lovaas was born in 1927 in Lier, Norway, a small agricultural village outside of Oslo. His father was a journalist at the local newspaper and his mother was the daughter of a tenant farmer. Dr. Lovaas is survived by his wife, Nina, and his four children, daughters Randi, Lisa, and Kari, and son, Erik, who follows his father's methods in his own clinic in Nevada.

A memorial service will be held in the coming weeks. A memorial scholarship fund is also in development. More details will be posted on the Lovaas Institute website: www.lovaas.com. To inquire further or to contribute a special message, please e-mail memorial@Lovaas.com

Simone Stevens
Lovaas Institute

Mauricio Ramos
Fabric Interactive


Mis condolencias a la Familia del doctor Ivar Lovaas

Como padre de un niño con rasgos de autismo agradesco al doctor por el trabajo que dedico en la integracion de los niños con la sociedad a nombre de mi familia Poma-Ore y mi hijo Eduardo con rasgos de autismo rindo homenaje a un hombre que puso interes en buscar una solucion aun problema que en el caso de mi pais existe mucho deficit si bien no podre ir a sus funerales rindo homenaje a la familia del medico y espero que la llam que encendio prosiga en ellos que si son hijos del doctor lo haran de lo mejor familia
Lovaas el papa no se ha ido queda en la institucion que formo y sera recordado por ello
Mis respetos a ustedes
Ricardo Poma Felipe

Lima - Peru

I‘m very regret to hear it.
God bless him!

When I started my new career as an Autism Support Worker and my dream perosn was going to be Dr.Lovaas, then he has gone forever. I am very shocked for that.
Ashok Ukil
Autism Support Worker
Autism Services
S7N 3G8

This is a sad day for all people who have autism or have a loved one with autism. Dr. Lovaas' work has helped to work miracles for tens of thousands of children - certainly it has been livesaving for my son. I hope someday the benficiaries will number in the millions, up until the day we find a way to make it unnecessary.

My condolences to Dr. Lovaas' family, and also my thanks for sharing him with so many of us who needed him.

In our August 6, 2010 press release regarding the passing of Dr. Lovaas, we made an error regarding Sid Bijou and his center at the University of Washington. Dr. Bijou was associate professor of psychology at the University of Washington and was a mentor to Dr. Lovaas. The correct name of the center, which Dr. Bijou directed, was the Institute of Child Development. We regret the errors.

My condolences to Dr. Lovaas' family. I had the pleasure of studying and working at the institute. His humor and class forever changed my life. I still work in the field today and would not be a behaviorist if it were not for him. Thank you Dr. Lovaas.

I worked in the first program at UCLA in 1964-1965. Dr. Lovaas was quite a character a wonderful mentor to me. I worked one on one with C in the pilot program with the first four kids.
Later, I met with Dr. Lovaas in Malibu at his home in 1966 to tell him I was going to live in Israel. He was sad to see me leave the U.S.
I will always have a fondness for Dr. Lovaas, especially for his humor and enthusiasm.
Sincerely, Mickey Chalfin, Albion, CA.

Any word on the memorial?

Dr. Lovaas has had an impact on countless lives, reaching far beyond the field of teaching children with autism. Forty years ago, I was a student in his Exceptional Children class at UCLA, and got to try ideas out about positive reinforcement with an autistic child in his clinic. Starting in 1989, I used much of what I had learned from him in the development of a nonprofit organization called Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International. Kidpower has brought empowering effective personal safety skills to over a million children, teens, and adults, including those with special needs, from many different cultures all over the world. The concepts about breaking skills down into small steps and rewarding progress each step of the way are core to our Kidpower Positive Practice teaching method. Thank you, Dr. Lovaas!

From a family with 2 children whose lives have been improved by Lovaas...thank you for all you did.
My oldest is now in college as an honor student.

The development of ABA treatment for children with autism has allowed children opportunities to reach potentials not before thought. As a mother of 2 children with autism who have benefitted from ABA treatment inspired by your work and as a student in your behavioral theory class in the 90's -- I cannot thank you enough for your passion and committment to your work and all that has come from it.

Prof. Lovaas was an inspiration to me at UCLA and throughout my career. A brilliant alive ingenious researcher, endlessly searching. The most influential teacher I knew.

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