Friday, July 14, 2006

Eric Schopler (1927 - 2006)

A weblog was created in memory of Dr. Eric Schopler (1927-2006), a professor of psychiatry and psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill for more than 40 years and a pioneer in the humane and effective treatment of autism. In an era when parents were blamed for causing what was felt to be a psychological problem, Eric was one of the first to use empirical research to establish the true, neurological basis of autism and its effective treatment -- treatment that included parents as co-therapists. His methods have been studied and adopted by autism programs around the world, bringing hope and brighter futures to thousands of families in dozens of countries. In the process, hundreds of people have come to know and admire him and have been privileged to call him "friend". The web log is dedicated to sharing and preserving the memories that these friends, family and colleagues have of this truly unique and great man. - (Brenda Denzler)

     I am the parent of an autistic man who goes by the name of Jason. Accepting that my son was autistic was one of the most confusing and difficult trials I have been through in my life. I became a member of the Autism Society of America, or the ASA, in 1987 soon after I had received a diagnosis from Dr. Cook at the University of Chicago. I wanted to keep informed about autism and felt they might help me cope with the hand I had been dealt. They began sending the Autism Advocate, a newsletter, which I began to read cover to cover with the hope they would discover a breakthrough or a miracle drug that would restore speech, calm behaviors or help to learn.
     One day in August of 94 the mail slot clinked and there was Dr. Eric Schopler on the cover of the ASA newsletter. It featured Eric in an interview, better known as "Ask the Experts", that changed my point of view of autism. I noticed that Eric held value in the parent’s perspective. In the interview, Eric explained the six principles that guided the TEACCH system. I was amazed that there was a system and that it helped to observe and evaluate each individual and how to use their strengths to help them learn. It was incredible that behavior and cognitive theories could be used as a basis for useful interventions. It was then I knew there really was an Autism Expert. Dr. Eric Schopler.
     Some people don’t believe in destiny or fate. As fate would have it, Chicago with the cold and the snow and the divorce and the lack of services and lost schools would lead me to Eric. So here’s the story of a man named Cory who was bringing up three boys on his own. They were four men living all together but they were all alone. And then one day when this CHALU met this fellow, and they knew that it was much more than a group, that this bunch could somehow form a family. That’s they way they became part of the Schopler soup.
     Eric was a brilliant humanitarian, developed the autism rating scale, honed in on collaborating with parents and professionals, helped build support communities, and founded an internationally known treatment program that helped people in great numbers.
     I got to know Eric in a special way. A way in which everything is logical, communication is understood using electricity and words, viruses and infections are not easily removed, and photos and colors are used for visual effects. I’ll always think that I helped Eric to handle his computing, but I’ll always know that Eric helped the world to handle their understanding of autism. Even when there were crackers adding salt and soaking it up, it felt warm and soothing to be a noodle in the soup. - (Steve Cory)


Post a Comment

<< Home