Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Mira Rothenberg

Autism Light #417 is Mira Rothenberg.

Mira Rothenberg was a holocaust survivor and a pioneer child psychologist in the treatment of children with autism. Mira Rothenberg was born on January 15, 1922 in Vilnius, Lithuania and died on April 16, 2015. She spent much of her life working in New York and had been living with her son in Beverly Hills, California at the time of her passing. She is survived by her only son Akiva Goldsman, who is a Hollywood screenwriter who won an Academy Award for his movie A Beautiful Mind. Mira Rothenberg will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

When Mira Rothenberg arrived in New York in 1939 she began work with children who were holocaust orphans that arrived from European concentration camps. This work with children propelled her into a passion for children diagnosed with autism and she became a pioneer in specialized treatment for them. Her groundbreaking role in the history of autism treatment has been described in this way. "Mira Rothenberg has been instrumental in developing treatments and clinical distinctions for autistic and severely disturbed children that are separate from those who are mentally disabled (ReadHowYouWant.com, Mira Rothenberg)."

Education: Mira Rothenberg studied psychology and education at Brooklyn College and Columbia University. She received her Masters in Psychology from Yeshiva University (Remembering Mira Rothenberg, Tabletmag.com, May 12, 2015, Tal Trachtman Alroy). In 2011 she was awarded the Honorary Doctorate degree at the 80th Commencement at Yeshiva University.

Blueberry Treatment Centers: Mira Rothenberg and her husband Tav Goldsman founded the Blueberry Treatment Centers in New York, which were the first internationally recognized agency to offer treatment for children who had autism and schizophrenia. Mira Rothenberg served as the clinical director of the Blueberry Treatment Centers from 1959-1985.  By 1990 the center "was providing services to more than 200 children and adolescents through its residential and day treatment programs, nursery and summer camp (New York Times, Sam Roberts, May 11, 2015)."

Author:  Mira Rothenberg is the author of the following books on autism treatment.
Mira Rothenberg wrote of her summer of work with autistic children at Raquette Lake, "It was the beginning of the recognition that these children exist and have a right to life....and a change in public perception of and attitude toward these kinds of children--autistic (or as they were often misdiagnosed, schizophrenic), and those suffering from childhood schizophrenia (The Children of Raquette Lake: One Summer That Helped Change the Course of Treatment for Autism, 2012)."

Mira Rothenberg had a heart for her work and she took it personally when she couldn't help every student. In 1978 when a student of hers had to be admitted to a state hospital she said, "I learned that it is especially difficult to forgive yourself. We all want to be gods. But we are mortals, and knowing that is sometimes very painful (As quoted by New York Times, Sam Roberts, May 11, 2015)."

We remember with thankfulness the accomplishments and contributions to autism that Mira Rothenberg made. Over the years she helped hundreds of children to find a better life through her pioneer treatments that were geared distinctively toward those impacted by autism. May the example of her work and her unique heritage as a holocaust survivor inspire others to make a difference for those with autism in the years to come. RIP Mira Rothenberg. All those that had the privilege to know you in your time and those that come after you and have studied your contributions can't help but shed a tear tonight that you are gone from our world.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

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