Ole Ivar Lovaas, a University of California-Los Angeles psychology professor who pioneered one of the standard treatments for autism, has died. He was 83.
He had been recovering from surgery for a broken hip and developed an infection, according to a family member. Lovaas died Monday at a hospital in Lancaster, north of Los Angeles. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease a few years ago.
Lovaas' 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 the disorder 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 the treatment to the growing numbers of children being diagnosed.
"Before that (paper), people still felt that there was no hope once your child was diagnosed with autism," said Doreen Granpesheeh, one of his former graduate students who went on to open the Center for Autism Research and Treatment, a large therapy company.
An early interview with Lovaas: