Eric Schopler was born February 8, 1927 in Fürth, Germany to Erna Oppenheimer Schopler and Ernst Schopler, who were Jewish. In 1938 his family fled Nazi Germany and emigrated to the U.S., where they settled in Rochester, New York.
Schopler married Betsy Burch in 1953 and together they had three children: Bobby, Tom and Susie. Following his divorce in 1970, he married Margaret Lansing. He died at the age of 79 from cancer on July 7, 2006 at his home near Mebane, North Carolina.
After graduating from high school, Schopler joined the United States Army. In 1949 Schopler earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago. In 1955, he attained a graduate degree in Social Service Administration. He earned a PhD in clinical child psychology in 1964. All three degrees were attained at the University of Chicago.
After attaining his graduate degree, Schopler worked from 1955 to 1958 as a family counselor in Rochester, New York. He moved to Rhode Island where for 2 years he worked at the Emma P. Bradley Hospital as the Acting Chief Psychiatric Social Worker. Then in 1960 worked in Chicago at the Treatment and Research Center for Childhood Schizophrenia. He was an investigator and therapist there until 1964, the same year that he attained his doctorate from University of Chicago.
Schopler joined the faculty as an associate professor of the Psychiatry department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1964. He became the director of the Child Research Project in 1966. In collaboration with Dr. Robert Reicher, he applied his earlier research on receptor processes to the treatment of autism. Funding was provided by the National Institute of Mental Health and trials were conducted with autistic children and their parents.
As a result of his work for the Child Research Project, the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) was created in 1971 and he was made co-director in 1972. It is a "pioneering" program for assisting with autism spectrum disorder education, research and service delivery for children and adults. The TEACCH program lead to many advances in knowledge of autism. Schopler showed that most autistic children did not suffer from mental disorders, as was believed by many at the time. He also proved that parents of autistic children could be effective collaborators in the treatment and education of their children. Thanks to these TEACCH results, in 1972 Schopler's methods were rolled out statewide in North Carolina schools and special state-funded clinics.
The following year he was made a professor. In 1976 he became the director or TEACCH and remained so until 1993. He became the Associate Chair for Developmental Disabilities in 1992, which he held until 1996. Overlapping his time as Director of TEACCH and as Associate Chair for Developmental Disabilities, Schopler was the Chief Psychologist from 1987 to 1999. He worked at the University of North Carolina's TEACCH program until 2005.
The TEACCH methodology has been implemented internationally and, as of 2006, in North Carolina there were 9 TEACCH state funded clinics in operation.
Schopler was editor for Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders from 1974 till 1997. His successor was Gary B. Mesibov. He was also on the Schizophrenia Bulletin and the Topics in Early Childhood Special Education editorial boards.
He was a member of the Society for Research in Child Development, American Association on Mental Deficiency, and American Association for the Advancement of Science. He also served on the advisory boards of Autism Society of America, Autism Society of North Carolina, Linwood Children's Center (Ellicott City, Maryland) and Bitter Sweet Farms (Toledo, Ohio).
He received the following recognition for his work:1972 - American Psychiatric Association's Gold Achievement Award for Child Research Project
1985 - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's O. Max Gardner Award for contributions to human welfare
1993 - North Carolina Award for public service
1997 - American Psychological Association's Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Advancement of Knowledge and Service
2005 - Autism Society of North Carolina's Lifetime Achievement Award
2006 - American Psychological Foundation's Gold Medal for Life Achievement in the Application of Psychology
2007 - North Carolina General Assembly Joint Resolution honoring the life and memory of Eric Scholper, "a pioneer in the treatment of autism
Schopler has spent his life working to determine the precise nature of autism and the most effective ways to treat it. His doctoral research on the sensory preferences of children with autism was among the first experimental studies that helped redefine the condition as a developmental disability, rather than a psychogenic condition caused by poor parenting. His subsequent research into educational treatments for autism, and his use of the parents of autistic children as co-therapists in this treatment, met with resounding success, leading to the formation of TEACCH in 1971 and the program's receipt of the American Psychiatric Association's Gold Achievement Award in 1972.
More than 200 articles and books were written by Scholper on autism spectrum disorders. This is a partial list of some of the books he's written.Eric Schopler; Robert J. Reichler. (editors). Psychopathology and Child Development: Research and Treatment. New York: Plenum Press, 1976. ISBN 0306308703
Michael Rutter; Eric Schopler. (editors). Autism: A reappraisal of concepts and treatment. New York: Plenum Press, 1978. ISBN 0306310961.
Eric Schopler; Gary B. Mesibov. Psychoeducational Profile - Revised (PEP-R). Pro-Ed; 1 January 1979. ISBN 978-0-89079-238-4.
Eric Schopler; Robert J. Reichler; Margaret D. Lansing. Individualized Assessment and Treatment for Autistic and Developmentally Disabled Children. University Park Press, 1980.
Eric Schopler; Robert Reichler; Margaret D. Lansing. Teaching Strategies for Parents and Professionals: Volume II. 1980.
Eric Schopler; Margaret D. Lansing; Leslie Waters. Teaching Activities for Autistic Children: Volume III. Part of the series Individualized Assessment and Treatment for Autistic and Developmentally Disabled Children. University Park Press, 1982. ISBN 0839118007
Eric Schopler; Gary B. Mesibov. Autism in Adolescents and Adults. Springer; 28 February 1983. ISBN 978-0-306-41057-4.
Eric Schopler; Gary B. Mesibov. (editors) Communication Problems in Autism. Springer; 31 May 1985 ISBN 978-0-306-41859-4.
Eric Schopler; Gary B. Mesibov. Social Behavior in Autism. Springer; 28 February 1986. ISBN 978-0-306-42163-1.
Eric Schopler; Robert J. Reichler; Barbara Rochen Renner. The childhood autism rating scale (CARS) for diagnostic screening and classification of autism. New York: Irvington, 1986. ISBN 0829015884
Eric Schopler; Gary B. Mesibov. Neurobiological Issues in Autism. Springer; 30 April 1987. ISBN 978-0-306-42451-9.
Gary Mesibov; Eric Schopler. Adolescent and Adult Psychoeducational Profile (AAPEP). Pro-Ed; 1 September 1988. ISBN 978-0-89079-152-3.
Eric Schopler; Gary B. Mesibov. Diagnosis and Assessment in Autism. Springer; 30 September 1988. ISBN 978-0-306-42889-0.
Gary B. Mesibov; Eric Schopler; Bruce Schaffer; Rhonda Landrus. Adolescent and Adult Psychoeducational Profile (AAPEP): Volume IV (1988). Pro-ed, 1989. ISBN 089079152X.
Linda R. Watson; Catherine Lord; Bruce Schaffer; Eric Schopler. Teaching Spontaneous Communication to Autistic and Developmentally Handicapped Children. 'New York: Irvington Publishers Inc., 1988. ISBN 0829018328'
Eric Schopler; Mary Elizabeth Van Bourgondien; Marie M. Bristol. (editors). Preschool Issues in Autism. New York: Plenum Press, 1993. Part of the series Current Issues in Autism. ISBN 0306444402
Eric Schopler; Gary B. Mesibov. Behavioral Issues in Autism. Springer; 31 March 1994 ISBN 978-0-306-44600-9.
Eric Schopler; Gary B. Mesibov. Learning and cognition in autism. Plenum Press; 1995. ISBN 978-0-306-44871-3.
Eric Schopler; Gary B. Mesibov. (editors). Parent Survival Manual: A Guide to Crisis Resolution in Autism and Related Developmental Disorders. Springer; 30 June 1995 ISBN 978-0-306-44977-2.
Eric Schopler; Gary B. Mesibov; Linda J. Kunce. Asperger Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism?. Springer; 30 April 1998 ISBN 978-0-306-45746-3.
Eric Schopler; Nurit Yimiya; Cory Shulman; Lee M. Marcus (editors). The Research Basis for Autism Intervention. Plenum Publishing, 2001. ISBN 030646585X
Gary B. Mesibov; Victoria Shea; Eric Schopler. The TEACCH Approach to Autism Spectrum Disorders. Springer; 7 December 2004. ISBN 978-0-306-48646-3.