“Screams, Slaps and Love: A Surprising, Shocking Treatment Helps Far-Gone Mental Cripples,” 1965

“Screams, Slaps and Love: A Surprising, Shocking Treatment Helps Far-Gone Mental Cripples,” Life, May 7, 1965.

This article introduced Ivar Lovaas and his work with “mentally crippled” autistic children to a large public audience. Lovaas’ use of both positive and aversive conditioning was described as a desperate “last resort” for children who displayed “gigantic tantrums and fits of self-destruction.” Although the work of Lovaas’ team at UCLA was characterized as extraordinarily patient and even respectful, the behavioral approach to autism was all the more disturbing because of the graphic photographs accompanying the article. One girl, Pamela, for example, was depicted bare-footed in the “shock room,” staring at the strips on the floor that carried painful jolts of electric current to her feet.


 

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