Eric Schopler (February 8, 1927 – July 7, 2006) was a German born American psychologist whose pioneering research into autism led to the foundation of the TEACCH program.
After graduating from high school, Schopler joined the United States Army. In 1949, Schopler earned his bachelors 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, Scholper 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, he 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, Scholper 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).