Victor Rodriguez, Director Clínico, Lovaas Foundation
When I was 16, without really knowing how, a book fell in my hands. The book was titled: "I Don't Want To Be Inside Me Anymore" by Birger Sellin. Basic Books, (1996). I admit it was hard for me to read it at the time, but certainly, between disbelief and surprise, I guess it began to mark my personal and professional career.
At the Ramon Llull University in Barcelona, I first focused my studies on Speech Therapy and later on Psychology. There, during my last course of Speech Therapy, I had the opportunity to meet Professor Asun Puche.
Thanks to her, I was introduced to the field of ABA and Autism and I was completely captivated. She changed my perspective from "Helping people with Autism" to "Increasing the quality of life of people with Autism and their families." I had the opportunity to work with her in the "Barcelona Autism Project", the Official Replication Site of the "UCLA Young Autism Project" directed by Professor Dr. Ivar Lovaas.
Therefore, in the academic year 1998-1999, I started as a behavioral therapist and was able to access two research grants in Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis. The Research Project began with a foundational, clinical and non-profit purpose. In 2003 I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Ivar Lovaas at a Multi-Center Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Shortly after, the Board of the Foundation proposed for me to lead the project as Clinical Director. I went to Minneapolis to study and learn with Dr. Eric Larsson at the Lovaas Institute. Since then, Dr. Larsson has been the person who has most influenced my professional career thus far. With him and with Dr. Kara Riedesel, and their knowledge of Behavioral Science, I began to understand the importance of examining behavior from a dynamic, changing and flexible perspective. I learned that in developing behavioral intervention programs for children with Autism, we cannot separate the concept of "Intervention" from the concept of "Everyday Life". Understanding contingency in its most complete and technical sense, led me to discover that the learning opportunities are the same in both contexts. We cannot miss any of them in any environment because it is essential to optimize time, accelerate learning and, therefore, improve their lives and those of their families.
The possibility of working in home-based approaches has allowed me to understand the need for training and supervision for families and caregivers who live with ASD individuals in a regular and qualitative way. I always think-- and surely you share this opinion with me-- the training of the environment is one of the most complex but most important aspects for the intensive and behavioral treatment programs to end up being effective.
After my initial training in Minneapolis and, since 2006, I have been involved in the effective implementation of intensive treatment programs for autistic children at the "Lovaas Foundation" as Director. Currently, my professional activity focuses on three basic aspects: The supervision of Clinical Programs, the teaching and dissemination of ABA through courses and training programs, and, an aspect that I am very excited to return to, research.
One of the opportunities that my professional career has given me personally, has been the possibility of getting to know many countries, places and people around the world. Professionals and families willing to advance and improve their practice, always willing to support the processes of improving the quality of life of ASD people.
As you might imagine, after more than 20 years of professional practice, there have been many people who have trusted and helped me improve my practice in the field of ABA and ASD. It would be too long a list and I would surely forget about very influential people in my career. However, it would be unfair not to cite some of them. That is why I want to recognize Dr. Andrés García, Dr. Mayte Gutiérrez and Dr. Santiago Benjumea from the University of Seville and their entire team of SAVECC collaborators for their promotion of ABA in Spain. Also, to Dr. Javier Virués for his work at ABA Spain and his personal and professional support for my career. Equally important in my career has been the ASEMCO Foundation in Buenos Aires, Maria Furlong and Laura Bourdieu. They are the people who have helped me to take our practice at "Lovaas Foundation" to Argentina and many other places in Latin America. Just to finish this paragraph, I must recognize people who believe in our project and have fought for it for so long with their effort and determination. People like Ramón Bernat, Ester Calvo, Ruth Mármol, Jose Segundo and many other colleagues and friends who continue every day dedicating the best years of their lives to children with ASD.
One of the aspects in which these people have influenced me the most has been to understand the necessary adherence to the technical procedures and knowledge that we currently have. I feel that this is one of the principles that we must continue to keep very present in our daily practice. In Spain and from what I know of many other countries, supporting autistic people is still far from being the most optimal and consistent with what research has provided us in the last 40 years of rigorous study. For this reason, I want to take advantage of this window that EABA offers me, to emphasize the importance of the respect for science, the application of treatment variables that we know have been proven effective, and to advocate for a dynamic and individualized use of Applied Behavior Analysis to each child and every family.
And finally, I always say (and I'm sure) that I have the best job in the Universe. Being able to help autistic children and their families be happier, being able to help professionals to better develop their work with them… it is something that I never thought could be so important to me. Several times a day, I think that nothing hits harder than life itself and that no child should suffer in any way. I am more and more convinced that this is my vital mission.
Thanks for reading.