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2011 CalABA Award for
Outstanding Contributions to Behavior Analysis


O. Ivar Lovaas, PhD (posthumous)
University of California, Los Angeles, and Lovaas Institute

Friday, Feb. 18 5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.   (more info.)

Join us, with Dr. Lovaas's wife Nina, for this memorial of his remarkable life and legacy. 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, Dr. Lovaas died on August 2nd, 2010 at age 83.

After earning a PhD in psychology from the University of Washington in 1958, Dr. Lovaas completed his post-doctoral work at the Child Development Institute (CDI) at the University of Washington with fellow students Sid Bijou and Don Baer. In 1961, he 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 ABA.

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 1995 he founded the Lovaas Institute 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.

From his obituary in The New York Times:
"Ole Ivar Lovaas was born on May 8, 1927, in Lier, Norway, near Oslo. His father was a journalist, but during the Nazi occupation of Norway the family, Ole included, were forced to become agricultural laborers, working in the fields for 10 hours a day. A violinist, Ole attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, on a music scholarship, graduating in 1951." (He would later tell Los Angeles Magazine, "If I had gotten Hitler here at U.C.L.A. at the age of 4 or 5, I could have raised him to be a nice person.")

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.

(Parts excerpted from a posting on the Lovaas Institute website.)