Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lois Blackwell

Autism Light #415 is Lois Blackwell.

Lois Judevine Blackwell was a pioneer in autism treatment in St. Louis Missouri and founded the Judevine Center for Autism. Lois Blackwell was born on September 17, 1927, and passed away on March 17, 2015, at the age of 87. She had been diagnosed with cancer a week earlier. She is survived by three children: Kathy Blackwell, Mark (Valerie) Blackwell and Rebecca Blackwell. The funeral service for Lois Blackwell was held on March 21, 2015, at the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Frontenac, Missouri. Internment followed at Oak Hill Cemetery in Kirkwood, Missouri. Lois Blackwell will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Education: Lois Blackwell started working as a secretary in the Sociology Department of Washington University in St. Louis in the 1960's. She taught herself all she could on the newly discovered condition of autism so she could help in the small autism clinic the department had. In 1967 she became the Assistant Director in the Social Exchange Laboratory at Washington University. When she retired in 2004, Washington University awarded her an honorary degree for her lifetime work.

Judevine Center for Autism:  Lois Blackwell founded the Judevine Center for Autism in 1970 after a grant at the university's lab expired.
When the grant for the university's lab ran out out in 1970, Mrs. Blackwell and the parents of the children weren't ready to give up. They started the first program for treatment of autism in St. Louis. They stood in streets with donation cans to raise money from passing motorists. Mrs. Blackwell developed the training for parents, teachers, and professionals (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 20, 2015, Michael D. Sorkin).

Lois Blackwell, who was divorced, didn't want her name on the center, but parents decided to call it Judevine, which was her maiden name.  Lois wrote the curriculum used at the Judevine clinics. They did not use drugs in treatment but used a pioneer version of what we know as ABA therapy by giving rewards to reinforce positive behaviors.

"The Mission of the Judevine Center for Autism is to make a real difference in the quality of life for children and adults with autism, and their families, wherever they may live (Judevine Center Website)."  You can learn more about the ongoing autism services and training offered at the clinics that the Judevine Center for Autism has around the State of Missouri on their website at judevine.org.

Residential Treatment: Lois Blackwell is the founder of the first residential treatment center for autistic people in St. Louis. She established this groundbreaking program in the former St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church near the Missouri Botanical Garden  (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 20, 2015, Michael D. Sorkin).

Social Media: You can follow the Judevine Center on the following social media areas:

Philosophy of Education: Michael Sorkin wrote in her obituary, "Mrs. Blackwell viewed her mission as destroying the idea that autistic children cannot learn and are incapable of education (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 20, 2015, Michael D. Sorkin)."

Obituaries: You may read more information about Lois Blackwell in these obituaries.

Special thanks to Lois Blackwell for her pioneer work to improve the lives of those with autism in St. Louis. Her work lives on in the Judevine Center for Autism and in the children she worked with who are now adults. The autism community truly lost a treasure. May her life prove to be an example to others who follow her in Missouri and around the world.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

1 comment:

  1. Oh yes, Lois Blackwell changed our lives. Dealing with a child on the autism spectrum is such a challenge. Ms. Blackwell taught us to see the blessing and to understand our son as a person first. She taught us all to see INDIVIDUALS with autism, as PEOPLE FIRST. She is loved and missed. But she lives on in so many lives that she touched and enlightened. Marla and Danny Taggart