Eric Schopler

Welcome to the web log 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." This web log is dedicated to sharing and preserving the memories that these friends, family and colleagues have of this truly unique and great man.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

TEACCH moved to AHEC

The program for the Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped Children (TEACCH), will be moved organizationally under the North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) program, effective Sept. 1, 2011, with the arrival of the new director, Laura Klinger, Ph.D.

TEACCH has reported to the dean’s office of the School of Medicine since February 2010. Margaret B. Dardess, PhD, JD, associate vice chancellor for strategic alliances in the School of Medicine, is interim executive director. In July 2010, the School of Medicine made the decision to move TEACCH to AHEC upon the recruitment of a new director. Dr. Klinger’s appointment as the new director of TEACCH was announced in July 2011, after a long search which involved parents, community leaders, health care professionals and others. Read more about Dr. Klinger here.

About AHEC

The mission of the North Carolina AHEC Program is to meet the state’s health and health workforce needs by providing educational programs in partnership with academic institutions, health care agencies, and other organizations committed to improving the health of the people of North Carolina.

Learn more about AHEC.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

New TEACCH Director Appointed

Dr. Laura KlingerLaura Grofer Klinger, Ph.D., a leading autism researcher, will be appointed Director of the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication related handicapped Children (TEACCH) program in the UNC School of Medicine effective September 1, 2011. She will also serve as Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine.

“I am excited about the opportunities to continue TEACCH’s excellent service and training program and to continue building a prominent autism research program at UNC,” said Dr. Klinger.

Dr. Klinger will be responsible for overseeing TEACCH’s regional centers across North Carolina, a Supported Employment Program, and the Carolina Living and Learning Center, an integrated vocational and residential program for adults located in Pittsboro.

“We are pleased to welcome Dr. Klinger to the UNC School of Medicine and look forward to her applying her expertise in research, education and treatment of autism to the TEACCH program,” said William L. Roper, MD, MPH, dean of the School of Medicine.

Dr. Klinger has served as director of the Autism Spectrum Disorders Research Clinic at the University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa, AL, since 1993. In 2007, she also started the University of Alabama Autism Spectrum Disorder College Transition and Support program for college students with autism. In addition, she serves as an Associate Professor of Psychology and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology.

She has been a member on the editorial board of the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology and the Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment. She also serves on the board of directors of the International Society for Autism Research.

Dr. Klinger earned her PhD in Child Clinical Psychology at the University of Washington. She completed her predoctoral internship program at the TEACCH program at UNC and received the Martin S. Wallach Award of Outstanding Psychology Interns.

Her research program is a collaboration with her husband/colleague, Mark Klinger, PhD. Their research focuses on learning and memory in individuals with autism and the development of treatment programs based on these learning difficulties. Dr. Klinger attributes many of her research ideas to her earlier training at TEACCH.

Dr. Mark Klinger will also be joining the UNC School of Medicine as an Associate Professor in Allied Health.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Autism program backers on alert

CHAPEL HILL -- The day Mary Lou Warren met Eric Schopler was so momentous that 42 years later she can tell you that he wore a plaid shirt, corduroy pants and a corduroy jacket and had mud on his shoes.

He evaluated her son, George, who at age 6 was still in diapers and couldn't talk, and said, "I can help you."

Six months later, George was speaking.

"We all felt like we had struck gold," Mary Lou Warren said recently, referring to the 20 families considered to be the founding parents of TEACCH, the autism program that Schopler founded.

"My life was bedlam," she said. "I had gone through six years of hell and felt hopeless. And all of a sudden I found this wonderful thing that turned my life around. This was a miracle."

That was in 1968, and Warren has been a loyal TEACCH foot soldier ever since. But now she and other parents are raising questions about how the UNC School of Medicine is handling the program Schopler built into an internationally recognized autism treatment and support program.

TEACCH stands for Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-Handicapped Children. In the 1960s, many schools and doctors didn't know what to do with autistic children paralyzed by their inability to communicate. Schopler taught parents to help their children improve those skills. He was very successful.

TEACCH operated largely on its own for four decades. But prompted by budget cuts and calls for efficiency, medical school officials two years ago merged it with three other developmental disabilities programs. TEACCH parents bristled at the change as questions rose about who was in charge. Now leaders have moved the program again.

As school officials figure out what to do with it, parents like Warren fear any change at all.

"There are a lot of people out there dealing in autism, but they don't all follow the TEACCH philosophy," said Warren, who lives in Durham. "As long as I live and breathe, I want to know what they're doing with this."

Officials say they are committed to TEACCH's core values and that any changes will be administrative. "We're trying to be more efficient and cost-effective," said TEACCH interim director Margaret Dardess.

Dardess was put in charge of TEACCH after Gary Mesibov, 64, who succeeded Schopler, resigned recently after 31 years with the program. Attempts to contact Mesibov were unsuccessful. Schopler's genius was in helping parents help their children. Through flash cards, memory games, regimented testing and other exercises, parents brought life and happiness to their children. It was a long, frustrating, rewarding slog.

Today, George Warren is living in a group home in Durham. He works at a vocational rehabilitation program, speaks a little and understands a lot.

His mother believes in the fundamental TEACCH methods. That's why she helped form a local chapter of the Autism Society of America and joined other parents in lobbying the legislature - successfully - for state funding for TEACCH. The original appropriation was $550,000 in 1971; its budget this year is $6.1 million .

Medical school officials and an advisory group will spend the year determining the program's future.

Jamezetta Bedford is one adviser. The Bedfords moved to Chapel Hill from Baltimore in 1992 seeking help for their autistic daughter Shannon, then 5. Her role on the advisory group is to make sure the program's values are fully appreciated, she said.

Much of parents' unease is because of budgets cuts that led to the elimination of seven TEACCH administrative positions, she said.

"The worry was: If they're laying off seven, what are they doing?" Bedford said. "Are they phasing it out? Will it be just research and no clinical services?"

But Stuart Bondurant, a former dean of the UNC medical school, thinks the university believes in TEACCH, even if it may change the way it operates.

"People are afraid there will be a compromise in the care," said Bondurant, who, at the university's request, recently analyzed the program's leadership structure. "In my view, that's not so at all. If anything, it can be strengthened."

By Eric Ferreri, (919) 932-2008, The News & Observer

Autism researchers criticized for shift

Chapel Hill -- Recent affiliation and leadership changes at an autism research and training program at the University of North Carolina have caused a stir among the program's supporters, including the son of the program's founder.

Tom Schopler, son of Eric Schopler, founder of Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped Children (TEACCH), said he and other supporters have serious concerns about the leadership change and the university's general stewardship of the TEACCH.

"The real story is stewardship," said Schopler, whose father died in 2006.

The university announced last month that Gary Mesibov, the former director, was stepping down after spending 31 of his 35 years on the UNC faculty at TEACCH.

With Mesibov's departure, the university also announced that oversight of TEACCH would be shifted from the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD) to the dean's office of the School of Medicine.

Mesibov has been replaced by Margaret B. Dardess, associate vice chancellor for strategic alliances in the School of Medicine, until a new director is found.

Tom Schopler questioned the choice.

"Why would you put someone in control who has no knowledge of the position?" he said.

William L. Roper, dean of the School of Medicine, said in a news release last month that a "comprehensive review" of the program has been initiated to assure that it continues to serve individuals with autism and the people of North Carolina.

"We anticipate that this will be a deliberate and thoughtful process that will draw significantly on the experience and views of the many people who have made TEACCH a great program, including the families, supporters and friends," Roper said in the news release.

In a February letter, Roper responded to four questions submitted by UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp about the operation of the program, including a claim that an inappropriate $120,000 charge was made against the TEACCH endowment to pay for an audit.

Roper wrote that no $120,000 charge was made against the account. He did acknowledge that roughly $68,000 from the endowment's interest account was spent on an independent financial review of the program's finances and to support a part-time, temporary employee to process a backlog of service accounts.

"So there is no confusion about this, I have instructed my budget staff to reimburse this account with non-state funds from the Dean's Office for these charges," Roper wrote.

But Tom Schopler wondered why the money would be reimbursed if there was no wrongdoing.

"If it's an appropriate expenditure, why refund it from the dean's office?" he asked.

Roper also addressed concerns that recent TEACCH layoffs were done to avoid layoffs in CIDD.

He said there was no reduction to the clinical staff and that he is confident that the decision to lay off central office staff "was appropriate and that TEACCH was not affected disproportionately to other School of Medicine units."

Roper said TEACCH experienced a 14.7 percent decrease in the number of employees while CIDD units experienced greater decreases, ranging from 29.9 percent to 66 percent.

By Gregory Childress, (919) 419-6645, The Herald-Sun

Friday, February 12, 2010

Gary Mesibov to step down as director of UNC’s TEACCH program

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced today that Gary Mesibov, Ph.D. will step down as director of its program for the Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped Children, known as TEACCH. Mesibov spent 31 of his 35 years on the UNC faculty at TEACCH.

TEACCH was founded in the early 1970s by Eric Schopler, 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. TEACCH is a state-wide clinical services, training, and research program for individuals of all ages and levels of functioning with autism spectrum disorders. Mesibov followed Schopler as director and continued his vision of serving families with innovative diagnostic and supportive services that are now used throughout North Carolina and around the world.

Mesibov has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Stanford University, a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in psychology from Brandeis University. He completed a fellowship in clinical child psychology here at UNC. Mesibov is an internationally recognized leader in autism research and practice. He received the Univeristy of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor’s Award for Public Service, a Distinguished Professional Contribution Award for Public Service from the American Psychological Association, and an honorary degree from the University of Mons in Belgium. Mesibov has written extensively on autism and served as editor of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders from 1997-2007.

William L. Roper, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine said, "We deeply appreciate Dr. Mesibov’s contribution to the field of autism and to the children and other individuals who have benefited over many years from his leadership."

With the departure of Mesibov, the direction of TEACCH will move organizationally from the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities to the dean’s office of the School of Medicine. Dean Roper has initiated a comprehensive review process to determine the most appropriate structure for the future organization of TEACCH to assure its continued dedication to individuals with autism and to the people of North Carolina.

"We anticipate that this will be a deliberate and thoughtful process that will draw significantly on the experience and views of the many people who have made TEACCH a great program including the families, supporters and friends", Roper said.

Within the next year, the School of Medicine will initiate a search for a new director of TEACCH. Margaret B. Dardess, Ph.D., J.D., associate vice chancellor for strategic alliances in the School of Medicine, will become interim executive director of TEACCH. She will work with the directors to address the clinical and educational operations of TEACCH.

An advisory group will assist with the review process. The advisory group will include Thomas J. Bacon, DrPH, program director of AHEC (Area Health Education Centers), who will provide expertise on statewide educational and clinical services; Jamezetta R. Bedford, MA, a TEACCH parent and member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education, Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., chief science officer of Autism Speaks, whose strategic vision and clinical and scientific expertise will be valuable to this effort, Leah Devlin, DDS, MPH, Gillings Visiting Professor in Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and formerly the North Carolina State Health Director; and Joseph Piven, M.D., professor of psychiatry and director of the CIDD (Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities), who will provide scientific guidance.

Central to this effort is the continuation of outstanding service that TEACCH has long provided to individuals with autism. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is committed to building on the significant contributions of TEACCH to advance the understanding, treatment, and education of people with autism spectrum disorders and their families and communities.

Karen McCall, (919) 966-2819, UNC School of Medicine

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Video Tribute to Eric Schopler (1927-2006)

Click here to view.

As a way of helping Eric's lifelong dream of advancing research and work in the field of autism, Division TEACCH is offering copies of this video on DVD to anyone who contributes $25 or more to TEACCH. These donations will be used to support the Eric Schopler Endowed Chair in Autism Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. If you would like a copy of this DVD, or just want to support this cause in Eric's memory, please visit the TEACCH website for more information.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

H321 - NC Resolution honoring his life and memory

A JOINT RESOLUTION honoring the life and memory of eric schopler, a pioneer in the treatment of autism. Sponsored by Representative Verla Insko. Click here to view.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Memorial at the Carolina Living & Learning Center

A plaque, a glider and two Japanese trees were placed just south of the entrance to the Mary E. VanBourgondien Multipurpose Building at the Carolina Living & Learning Center located in Pittsboro, North Carolina in memory of Dr. Eric Schopler. Nancy Reichle, Director of the CLLC, lead the ceremony. Margaret (Miggie) Lansing and Tom Schopler spoke to those attending about how dedicated Eric was to persons with autism and how the CLLC came into existance because of his efforts. Susie Schopler and some of Eric's grandchildren were also there. Click here to view some of the presentation by Miggie.