Ole Ivar Lovaas


Ole Ivar Lovaas, a world-renowned autism expert, died Aug. 2. He was 83.

A resident of Malibu and Topanga Canyon since 1965, Lovaas was a distinguished professor of psychology at UCLA, where he developed the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis, an early intervention therapy for children diagnosed with autism or related disorders.

Lovaas was born in Lier, Norway, and grew up during the hardship of the depression years of the 1930s and the occupation of Norway by Germany during World War II. He was an accomplished musician who moved to the United States in 1950 with a violin scholarship at Luther College in Iowa.

In college, Lovaas began studying psychology. He earned a doctorate in the subject from the University of Washington in 1958. During his time at Washington, he met Beryl J. Scoles. They married in 1955, and had four children: Randi McAfee, Lisa Lovaas, Kari Cole and Erik Lovaas.

Lovaas began as an assistant professor at UCLA in 1961, and settled with his family in Point Dume in 1965. He spent the following decades at UCLA developing a comprehensive, evidence-based method for the treatment of autism. This culminated in the publication of his 1987 study, which demonstrated that early, intensive therapy could reduce or eliminate symptoms of autism in a significant percentage of subjects.

Lovaas eventually divorced, and he married Nina Watthen in 1986. They met while he was lecturing in Norway. In 1995, he founded the Lovaas Institute for Early Intervention, or LIFE, to provide treatment for children with autism. Based on his research, the Lovaas Institute continues his work worldwide today.  

Lovaas is survived by Nina, his wife of 24 years, four children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.  Details for a memorial service will be announced at a later date.